Mary Lou often talked fondly of all the rich blessings of her life. She grew up in Fulton, NY with a close and loving family. Her parents, Margaret O’Neill Anderson, and father, Williard August Anderson, were role models for her and instilled the values of love, family, and responsibility in her and her seven siblings, Betty, Bill, Dick, Margi, Karen, John, and Neill.
Mary Lou was born May 6, 1927 in Canastota, NY. The family soon moved to Fulton, NY where she spent her childhood, graduating from Fulton High School in 1944. She was involved in drama, basketball, student government and had a close group of girlfriends who had their own secret call signal.
She went on to Cornell University, School of Home Economics, and graduated in 1948. She was a quick and skillful starter on the women’s basketball team and was a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority.
Mary Lou taught high school in Saugerties, NY and then moved to Erie, Pennsylvania. She was hired by the Pennsylvania Gas Company as a Home Service Representative. She produced and appeared in cooking shows and wrote articles for the company newsletter.
It was in Erie that Mary Lou and Sam met. It was love at first sight and in a few weeks Sam asked Mary Lou to marry him. Their 66-year love affair was an inspiration and model for their five children and many others.
Mary Lou and Sam chose Homer, NY, as the ideal place to raise their family. Mary Lou took a deep interest in all her children’s friends and offered support, a shoulder to lean on, and a great sense of humor. She was beloved by all who came into her orbit.
Mary Lou was energetically committed to her community. She and three friends created the Landmark Society of Homer in 1970. Mary Lou and Anna Hilton co-wrote the book, Historic Homer. They were successful in registering Homer as a historic district, one of the largest historic districts in New York State at the time.
In 1971, Mary Lou was elected to the board of the SUNY Cortland Development Foundation where she served for 21 years. She served as Secretary, Vice President, and President of the Foundation and was also head of the Scholarship Committee. Scores of deserving students were able to attend SUNY Cortland on scholarship under her leadership and dedication.
Known for her effective and committed community engagement, she ran for the Homer Village Board, a board of four trustees who governed the village of Homer. She won that election in 1974, which made her the first woman trustee of Homer in the 150-year history of the village, often serving as acting mayor throughout her tenure.
In addition to her civic roles, Mary Lou also managed her husband’s medical office for decades.
Mary Lou was an intellectual and took philosophy and literature courses at SUNY Cortland while raising five children and volunteering in the community as a cub scout leader and religious education instructor – and by the way, she made an “A” in every course she took! She played competitive bridge and avidly did the New York Times crossword puzzle each morning.
Mary Lou was always a great adventurer. She traveled to Central America with Sam and was selected to participate on one of the first US citizen groups in 1975 to travel to China after it first opened up to the West. She traveled to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia. She and Sam volunteered in the refugee camps on the Cambodian border and in the Sudan. She had the ability to engage and impress senior foreign officials as well as create a deep and concerned connection with those who were most impoverished.
Mary Lou and Sam’s greatest source of happiness were their children, 13 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. Her memory will remain an integral part of all of their lives.
A Memorial Service will be held at 1 pm on Saturday, July 29, at the St. James Episcopal Church at 96 East Genesee Street in Skaneateles. A reception will follow at 3:30 pm at the Sherwood Inn at 26 East Genesee Street in Skaneateles.
In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for donations to Hospice of the Finger Lakes (hospiceofthefingerlakes.org).
To send condolences visit: robertdgrayfuneralhome.com.