Mary Ellen (Minnehan) Bailey passed away peacefully at home on June 4, 2012, after a long battle with colon cancer. Her husband, three children, close friend Donna Cotman and beagle “therapy” dog Daisy were at her bedside. Knowing her remaining time was limited, she wrote part of her own obituary in 2011 as follows:
“She was born on Dec. 24, 1943, on a small farm near Hay Springs, Nebraska. Living in the Hay Springs area all her life, she attended the Hay Springs schools from K-12, and then went to Chadron State College twenty miles away. Mary enrolled in Elementary Education and began teaching at Riverside School, a one-room school on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills on the banks of the Niobrara River. It was while she was employed at this school that she met her future husband, Ted, while on a school field trip to a fish hatchery.
Mary was a devoted mother, staying at home for her kids’ formative years, and then became a parent volunteer after they entered school. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education in 1983 and first worked as a second grade teacher and then as a substitute teacher for most of her life. She was kept very busy substituting for over twenty years, and enjoyed it a great deal. Others interests were an ongoing involvement in community theater (both onstage and as a set worker), singing with the Kenai Peninsula Chorus and in the Victorian Christmas Carolers.
Mary enjoyed spending a lot of time working in Community Theater sometimes on stage, moving set pieces backstage, or helping to paint them. She also thoroughly enjoyed spending time on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, whether hiking, canoeing, and picnicking or bird watching. She and her family often had winter picnics, roasting wieners over a wood fire and bringing hot water for making cocoa…”
Mary’s nearly 45 year marriage to Ted began on June 17, 1967. They raised three children and lived in Ohio, Idaho and Montana before moving to and living in Skukuza, in the Republic of South Africa for two years. Upon returning to the United States, they eventually moved to Alaska and have been living in their small, cozy Alaska log home since 1976. Mary was proud of her Irish heritage, inspired all her children to become teachers, and loved to return to the Nebraska prairie. Her interests were many: gardening, dipnetting salmon with her daughter Kim, berry picking, hiking with her husband and son Brian, canoeing, listening to a wide assortment of musical styles and artists, singing in choruses and musical productions, acting in musicals and comedy productions, traveling around Europe while their daughter Becky taught in Italy, and visiting numerous national parks in the American West with her husband.
She was also an avid reader and a creative writer. Just shortly before her death she completed a final draft of a book-length manuscript entitled “Tenant Farmer’s Daughter” about her life living on small farms in northwestern Nebraska; her husband plans to have it published for her as she wished.
Mary was preceded in death by an infant brother Joseph Andrew, her father Leo Thomas, mother Evangeline Rose (Black), brother Michael and sister Alice Minnehan. She is survived by her husband Ted, daughter Rebecca (Becky) Bailey of Sherman Oaks, Calif., daughter Kimberly (Kim) Bailey and son-in-law Mel Strauch of Anchorage, son Brian Bailey of Soldotna, sister Patricia Moore (South Dakota) and brothers James (Nebraska) and Jerry (Colorado).
A funeral mass held by Fr. Roger Bergkamp took place at our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Soldotna at 3:00 p.m. on June 14 followed at 4:30 p.m. by a musical and photographic tribute to Mary. A reception with Bluegrass and Irish music was then held in the adjacent church hall beginning around 5:30 p.m. Cards may be sent to 36915 Hakala Road, Soldotna, AK 99669. Live perennial plants rather than cut flowers are requested and will be planted around her home so her family and friends may enjoy them each year in remembrance of Mary.
Arrangements were by Peninsula Memorial Chapel in Kenai, Alaska.