Mary Melis Obituary

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In Memory of

Mary Adele Melis

December 12, 1923 - April 15, 2014
Obituary

Mary Adele Melis died April 15, 2014, in Mesa, Arizona. She was born Mary Adele Newcomer on December 12, 1923, in Douglas, Arizona. Her parents were Dr. John Ritchie Newcomer, an orthodontist, and Georgia Leonard Frost Newcomer, who arrived in Douglas in 1902 in a covered wagon. Mary Adele's brother, John Arthur, was also born in Douglas in 1926. The family moved to Phoenix when Mary Adele and her brother John were young. Mary Adele attended Kenilworth School and, as her father had before her, graduated from Phoenix Union High School in 1941. She attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, for one year and married West Point...
Mary Adele Melis died April 15, 2014, in Mesa, Arizona. She was born Mary Adele Newcomer on December 12, 1923, in Douglas, Arizona. Her parents were Dr. John Ritchie Newcomer, an orthodontist, and Georgia Leonard Frost Newcomer, who arrived in Douglas in 1902 in a covered wagon. Mary Adele's brother, John Arthur, was also born in Douglas in 1926. The family moved to Phoenix when Mary Adele and her brother John were young. Mary Adele attended Kenilworth School and, as her father had before her, graduated from Phoenix Union High School in 1941. She attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, for one year and married West Point graduate Timothy Asbury Pedley III in 1942. Lieutenant Pedley was lost at sea when his fighter crashed in 1943. Mary Adele was pregnant at the time with her first son, Timothy Asbury Pedley IV. Mary Adele married Annapolis graduate William Thomas Melis in 1947. Tom assumed the role as Tim's father, and Tom and Mary Adele had four children: Thomas William, John Newcomer, Catherine Anne, and Deborah Adele. Mary Adele's beloved father died in an auto accident in 1950, harshly interrupting the joys of her new marriage and growing family. Following Tom's initial Westinghouse training in Pittsburgh, Tom and Mary Adele lived in Phoenix, then Tucson, and moved to Tempe in 1962 to stay.

When her youngest child, Debbie, was old enough to start school, Mary Adele began her 25-year career as a school secretary for the Tempe Elementary School District. She was the school secretary at Rural School until it closed and thereafter at Meyer School until she retired in the mid-1980's. While Cathy and Debbie were growing up, Mary Adele served as their Campfire Girls leader, and she served on the Tempe Schools Credit Union (now Landings Credit Union) Board of Directors for 24 years. Mary Adele loved her work as a school secretary, as a Campfire leader, and as a member, secretary, and president of the credit union board. When she retired from Tempe Elementary, Mary Adele's work on the credit union board continued, and she expanded her love of gardening by volunteering at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Mary Adele enjoyed many passions while growing up. She was talented in music and dance. Lessons, rehearsals, performances, recitals and concerts filled her youth. Her Steinway grand piano, a gift from her parents, was a pride and joy. She loved to ride horses. A favorite ride headed north from the border of Phoenix through citrus groves and desert to the Biltmore Hotel, where she fortified herself with an ice cream cone and rode back to town. Mary Adele loved spending time in Prescott at the cabin in the Mountain Club built by her parents in the 1930's. Horseback riding was a favorite activity there also, as were Mountain Club dances. While a schoolgirl, Mary Adele spent her summers at the cabin. When her children were growing up, they spent their entire summers at the cabin, too. After retirement, Tom and Mary Adele were able to spend even more time in Prescott. From girlhood to old age, her bond with the cabin was very strong.

Mary Adele loved her family and her children, and their well-being was her greatest concern. She and Tom helped their children understand other cultures by inviting ASU foreign students into their home for meals. Russell Jones from Hawaii and Carsten Schultz from Germany became temporary sons – Russell enjoying Sunday dinners and holidays with the family during his years at ASU, and Carsten living with the family as a foreign exchange student during Bill's senior year at Tempe High. Tom and Mary Adele reared their children to be responsible, contributing adults and good parents. They developed in their children a love of and respect for nature, by taking them on extended camping trips to National Parks. As did many mothers of the time, Mary Adele acted as a surrogate mother to her children's friends. She invited relatives, friends and neighbors to an annual Christmas sing. This fondly remembered event grew year by year and filled her home with company. When spouses and grandchildren came along, Mary Adele loved them as if they were her own children. She was happy when they visited in Tempe or Prescott, and enjoyed traveling to their homes to visit them. Mary Adele loved her brother John, his wife Margie, and their four children. She was very close to her twelve first cousins. The eldest among them, Mary Adele loved seeing her cousins at her family's gatherings and drew great pleasure from attending their families' activities. Tom and Mary Adele sponsored the first Cousins' Reunion, held in Prescott in 1992. And the Melis household was never complete without a dog. From childhood, Mary Adele loved dogs, and she always focused generous attention on the well-being of her pet. When the sad time came to adopt a new dog, heaven forbid that a smaller one might be a suggested as a wiser choice. As Mary Adele grew older, each subsequent dog was larger than its predecessor, until her last pet outweighed Mary Adele herself.

Mary Adele, like other women of her era, was a study in contrasts and apparent contradictions. Well educated and well read, she was nevertheless gullible, and a perfect target for stories concocted by Tommy, who considered such fabrications and the responses they elicited a perfectly enjoyable sporting activity. Mary Adele was a beautiful woman, who loved to wear make-up, nice clothes, and was never "dressed up" without stylish high heels that showed her dancer's legs to advantage. She had her hair and nails done once a week, and all other events and needs flexed around the certainty of her hair appointment. At the same time, on the family camping trips, she was the parent who preferred the more primitive campsites, without flush toilets and running water, where there were fewer people and fewer amenities. When the house or the cabin needed painting, Mary Adele did it. While she could play the role of the pretty, well-groomed, socially adept but otherwise docile wife at Tom's business gatherings, she asserted herself in their marriage, and was an active not passive partner. Mary Adele was not shy about articulately expressing her opinion, and Tommy rarely wondered where Mary Adele stood on family matters. Mary Adele helped organize and lead the classified employees' association in the Tempe Elementary School District, and fought tirelessly for better salary, benefits, and working conditions for her colleagues. Her children, who like Tommy often enjoyed getting a rise out of their mother, might ask with feigned innocence how her union activities were going. Mary Adele did not take kindly to implications that she was a union organizer. Likewise, Mary Adele would never have acknowledged a feminist perspective, yet she reveled in being the only woman on the otherwise all-male credit union board, and considered it her duty to represent her gender in an effective manner. Reflecting on her daughter's strong actions and forceful opinions, Mary Adele's mother Georgia said, "I don't know why, but she has fire inside her. She is ready to fight the world."

Mary Adele lived a full, active and productive life. She worked hard to be a successful wife and mother, an admired and trusted relative, a competent and productive employee, a responsible community leader, a good neighbor, and a loyal friend. She contributed to the community through her work in the schools, with youth groups, as a credit union board member, and as a volunteer. All who knew her will miss her presence, and they will value her memory as long as their own memories last. Mary Adele was diagnosed in 2000 with Alzheimer's Disease. This illness brought many changes, some gradual and some more abrupt. Mary Adele insisted on her independence as long as possible. She was happy to extend her time in her own home an additional ten years with the invaluable assistance of loyal caregivers. Eventually she moved into a wonderful assisted living home where she maintained her visits with family, her love of music, her enjoyment of films, her contact with dogs, and her sense of humor. During the last year of her life, she faced serious health challenges. The family came to her side several times, with all indicators pointing to her imminent demise. Each time until the last, Mary Adele fought back and not only survived but improved. The verse of Dylan Thomas seemed keenly descriptive: "Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light." One could imagine Mary Adele silently reciting this poem as she banked her inner fire.

Her husband Tom in 1997, her brother John in 2009, and her nephew John Timothy Newcomer in 2005 preceded Mary Adele in death. She is survived by her children Timothy Asbury Pedley IV (Barbara), Thomas William Melis (Carole), John Newcomer Melis (Molly McLaughlin), Catherine Anne Melis (Elbert Collier), and Deborah Adele Bottesch (Curt), her sister-in-law Marjorie Stack Newcomer, her brother-in-law Robert E. Pedley (Lissi), her grandchildren Garek Matthew Bottesch, Alena Catherine Bottesch Cruz (Chad), David James Melis, John Andrew Melis, Lauren Elizabeth Pedley, and Nathaniel Mark Pedley, her nieces Susan Newcomer Ortiz (Joe), Joan Newcomer, Diane Newcomer Machado (Michael), Theresa Melis Thomson (Brent), Antoinette Melis Sarafin (James), Elizabeth Melis, Rosemary Melis Haaker, her nephews Gary Melis (Patricia) and Gregory Melis (Terese), her first cousins Mary Margaret Benson Kaden (Ted), John Benson (Olivia), Carolyn Cummins Perkinson (Bob), Mary Kathryn "Kay" Cummins Slaven, Katharine Dillas Heverly, Barbara Dillas Belton (Bill), and Anne Frost Nicol (William).

The Bottesch, Melis and Pedley families would like to thank the following individuals for their excellent and loving care of Mary Adele during the period of her life when she was coping with Alzheimer's disease and up to the time of her death: Dr. Michael Lucherini, Barbara McCarthy, Layla Burbar, Julie and Brian Flammer, Diana Flammer, Maria Flammer, Natalee Flammer, Sunny Balazsi, Santos Encinas, Brandy Marcum, Angelina Morales, Matthew Palmer, Rosa Reyes, Florence Rivera, and Alex Santillon. Our families would also like to thank Hospice of the West, whose professional staff provided Mary Adele with high quality palliative care and our family with advice and support.

Mary Adele's Memorial Service is at 11 AM on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at Trinity Cathedral, 100 W. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, Arizona, 85003 (NW corner of W. Roosevelt St. and N. 1st Ave., just west of Central Ave.). Free parking is located north of the cathedral, and a light rail stop is nearby. Visit Trinity's website for directions and map. A luncheon on site will follow the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to:
• Trinity Cathedral: http://trinitycathedral.com/
• The Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org/
• Hospice of the West: http://hospicewestaz.com/
• Grand Canyon Trust: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/

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"Mary Adele volunteered at the Desert Botanical Garden many years ago. As one of the horticulturists there, I worked with her often. I remember well her..." Cathy Babcock (Tempe, AZ)

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