MARY ELIZABETH SHEETS
Mary Elizabeth Sheets peacefully passed away on November 2, 2017 at Sauer Health Care with her daughters, Jenny, Jane, Moira and close friend Judy by her side.
Mary was born December 25, 1924 in Wainu-O-Mata, New Zealand. She was the oldest child of Bryan (Daud) and Elizabeth (Bet) Clunies-Ross Heath. Bryan, a dairy farmer was an active humanitarian and social reformer. In l954 he was acknowledged by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain for his efforts and success bringing transportation to rural children unable to afford or have transportation to school. Posthumously, a park was built in his honor. Bet was a feisty village nurse and midwife who rode her pony to remote areas tending to the sick and delivering babies. Mary often told her family stories of how she cared for her younger siblings in her Mother’s absence.
Mary met her husband, Ken, during World War II when, as a Marine Cpl., he was stationed in New Zealand to recover from his many battles in the South Pacific. Three months after dancing at the USO, he proposed to Mary. It was a long wait before they would be reunited, Jenny in tow, to his parent’s Wisconsin farm. They later moved to Winona, the magnificent bluffs and surrounding water reminiscent of Mary’s beloved New Zealand.
When Mary’s daughters were school age, she followed her Father’s example to educate children. She began as a nursery school teacher and eventually became the director of one of the first State funded child care centers located at the St. Teresa Campus in Winona. Her family will always remember the humorous tales she shared of the children she loved so much.
Ken retired early from Fiberite Corp. to travel with Mary throughout the world and eventually returned to New Zealand to care for Mary’s aging Mother. Several years later they returned to the States and their daughters, building a cabin on the sand prairie in Wabasha where they could fish and fulfill their dreams of creating beautiful country gardens. Mary continued to work in Kellogg as Semcac’s site manager, organizing events and supervising senior meals until her middle 70’s, when they returned to Winona.
In later life, Mary looked forward each weekend to the Winona Farmer’s Market, drinking Joe’s coffee, surrounded by friends, good music, beautiful flowers and produce. She also took great pleasure and comfort from her Faith Lutheran Church family and her social circle at Winhaven Court.
Mary instilled in her daughters and their children to love and respect the natural world, the diversity of people, carrying on the tradition of her beloved New Zealand family. Thank you, Mom for your generosity above and beyond, the wonder and power of reading and the appreciation of nature.
Mary is survived by her younger sister, Rossie Dennison of Christchurch, N.Z., her daughters, Jenny Alfaro, Jane Tselios, Moira Sheets Potvin, sons in law, Michael Potvin, Peter Tselios and her treasured seven grandchildren and dearest ten great grandchildren. Mary was preceded in death by her beloved husband,Ken, brother, Tony, sister Isabelle, her parents and son-in-law Richard Alfaro.
Our family is grateful to the Sauer Health Care staff, Dr. Forsthye of Winona Health and Winona Hospice for their kindness and care to Mary.
A service will be held at 12 noon, on Saturday, December 2, 2017, with visitation starting 11 AM at Faith Lutheran Church, 1717 W. Service Drive in Winona. The Reverend Mark Dumke will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Winona Public Library.
Online condolences or memories may be left for Mary's family at www.watkowski-mulyck.com
Watkowski-Mulyck Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.