YOUNGSTOWN — Mary Louise Morley was called to rest in the prayer and strength that she spread in abundance for 98 years. She died peacefully at her home, where she was born and raised, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.
Mary was born Aug. 2, 1922, in Youngstown, to Edgar T. and Mary Ann (Naughton) Morley.
She is survived by her sister, Rita Kline. She is also survived by three generations of more than 100 who called her “Aunt Mary,” including her nephew, Jeff Smrek, who provided her with compassionate care for the final four years of her life. Mary left more than 30 nephews and nieces, more than 40 grand-nephews and -nieces, and up to 27 great-grand-nephews and -nieces.
These unwieldy numbers did not deter Mary’s dedication to demonstrate love, enforce tradition and widen the circle of family for everyone. This was manifested by her year-round wrapping of Christmas gifts and crocheting of washcloths to ensure that everybody received a pile of personalized gifts. She attended every birthday, baptism, baby shower, graduation and wedding possible, and when not possible, a card and gift arrived before the date. Aunt Mary expected nothing in return but a hearty piece of cake with extra frosting — but she sure did love opening thank you cards in the mail. However, the material gifts will not be Aunt Mary’s enduring legacy, it will be her determination to provide for those in need, by knitting together her faith, work ethic and boundless energy.
Mary was one of 11 children. She was predeceased by nine of her siblings: Edgar A. Morley, Bernard J. “Tim” Morley, Anne Ryan, Kathleen Lutseck, Patrick Morley, Joann Bode, Isabel Morley, Ellen Rose Smrek and John “Jackie” Morley.
Her life of family care, selfless generosity and protection of the most vulnerable started early. When their mother died and Mary was 17, as the eldest daughter, she took up the responsibility of helping her father raise the eight younger siblings and accepted loving support of extended family and neighbors. Her guardianship of her family remained steadfast to the end.
Her professional life as a social worker was guided by her resolute belief that everybody has the right to be clothed, fed, housed, educated and employed. This sense of purpose lasted over four decades for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, where she eventually accepted the position of assistant commissioner. When she was nearing retirement after 30 years, the commissioner asked Mary to stay on an additional four years, and then twice more beckoned her to add four subsequent years, bringing her sum years of service to the state of Ohio to 42 years. Her career rested on her certainty of women’s role in the workplace, and she extended her determination to gain education and serve to every subsequent generation.
Aunt Mary’s expansive kindness and clear-eyed view of morality was matched by her sense of adventure and zest for travel. She took the driver’s seat on national trips, which always included some sisters and nieces, to visit family members. She viewed a drive from Ohio to California, with a stop at the Grand Canyon, as an average itinerary, with a car packed full of five or six family members. She drove nephews and nieces to the Carolinas, Colorado, New Jersey, Massachusetts and West Virginia like some people plan a seasonal walk in the park. Her Buick crossed over to Canada and Mexico on more than one occasion. International journeys to Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China and Hong Kong were accompanied by an extra empty suitcase that would return bursting with gifts. No destination was as beloved as Ireland, to which she proudly racked up six trips over the past five decades to fortify the thread of family heritage. The last trip to Ireland was a nine-day adventure with one of her nieces, when Aunt Mary was nearing age 92.
Whether on the west side of Youngstown, or on an international expedition, Mary’s purse carried her rosary beads and she found a celebration of Mass on Sunday. Her life was a testimony to her Catholic faith, and Saint Brendan Church was the anchor of her prayer and practice. She worked bingo night every week until her health no longer permitted. She was a member of St. Brendan’s Altar and Rosary Society longer than anybody can remember. On a winter day a few years ago, when roads were closed due to freezing, she walked to church to help the priest, and was satisfied that she could assist for the only two parishioners who showed up in the pews.
Her service stretched beyond family and church to Quota International, to which she fondly referred as “my club” for more than three decades. Many of Mary’s international trips were service driven, as Quota’s mission includes “empowering women, children, the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and people with speech difficulties in local communities around the world.” She served many roles including president of Quota for a term.
In city organizations, she was an usher for the Monday Musical Club at Stambaugh Auditorium for many years. She delighted at the dual opportunity to provide service and simultaneously enjoy a good show. She was also a member of Crochet Club for decades. While she was constantly tallying how many washcloths she had made before Christmas, Mary was far more concerned with making sure she provided a ride for every club member and that there would be a delicious dessert served on “crochet night.”
At home, in her garden, Mary tended to flowers throughout the season with a special passion for roses as a symbol of her reverence for the Virgin Mary. Her cultivation of blossoms in her yard, neighborhood, city and church will be dearly missed; her role as family matriarch will be remembered with grace.
Mary L. Morley’s ashes will be interned in Calvary Cemetery, where until recently, she could be found in one of her favorite red sweaters on every religious and patriotic holiday with one of her sisters, decorating the graves of dozens of loved ones with fresh flowers, wreaths and an occasional leprechaun.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at St. Brendan Church, where calling hours will be held immediately following the Mass. All in attendance are invited to luncheon afterward, which will be announced. These events will practice social distancing safety measures regarding COVID-19 precautions.
Memorial contributions may be donated to St. Brendan Church, 2800 Oakwood Ave., Youngstown, OH 44509.
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