Mary Smerken
  • 93 years old
  • Date of birth: Jan 16, 1921
  • Place of birth:
    Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Date of passing: Jul 14, 2014
  • Place of passing:
    Olympia, Washington, United States
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Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Carol Conell on 8th May 2016

"I remember your mom as she and my Aunt Nikki--another wonderful woman--were good friends."

This tribute was added by Jean Lehmann on 21st September 2015


This is Jean Lehmann, Henry Lehmann’s daughter. I have many cherished memories of Mary Smerken.  I just learned of Mary’s death and hope my tribute is not too late.  I consider her a family member. She worked in our house as my father’s legal secretary for almost 20 years starting in about 1967. My father’s offices were in the front three rooms of our house.  That meant that every morning Mary came into the kitchen or sat at our dining room table having a cup of coffee with my mother, Virginia. Often she ate lunch with us and was just generally a part of my life.   I knew I could tell her anything and she would not judge. When I shared incidents about my life, both good and bad, she would get a cute smile on her face and giggle. She did not judge. Her joyous attitude about life’s foibles made everyone around her feel better about the world.  She thought the best of everyone with whom she came into contact and had a wonderful outlook on life.  
She and my mother were dear friends. They spent a lot of time laughing with and at each other. I remember Mary asking me if I had listened to my mother’s answering machine message. My mother had used a faky southern accent to theatrically announce, “I will be delighted to talk to you”. Mary thought it was hilarious. I knew her humor showed her loving understanding of my mother’s ridiculousness.  Mary also was adventurous, ready to travel. So it was Mary who drove with my mother to help me move from Wisconsin back to the house in Matteson, Illinois. She was always there for me during my life. She never seem to grow old and was a great role model.
Mary was an amazing secretary—actually a paralegal or should have been if she wasn’t. My mother used Mary’s services for her legal matters. I have copies of family files and deeds they worked on, I recognize Mary’s neat handwriting. My mother trusted her completely and appreciated her competence. Mary was such a part of the household that when my father retired and Mary took another position with a lawyer, my mother gave her the desk she sat at for so many years. It was Mary’s. During all her time at our house, I never heard her complain once about our pets.  She put up with dogs and cats running under her feet hoping to get extra morsel of food from her whenever she came to the kitchen.  
When my father died, Mary joined the rest of the immediate family in spreading my father’s ashes—illegally in the construction zone of the Matteson Library for which ground had just been broken.  We agreed that since my father enjoyed the library a lot in his last years we should put his ashes there. I remember all of us climbing around construction materials, past the do not enter sign, in the darkness of night, trying to avoid falling into trenches as we sprinkled his ashes. My mother and Mary kept repeating, “Henry would be so upset with us. He would say we were going to get arrested. Didn’t you read the sign?” And then they would burst into peals of laughter, delighted with the situation. It was the perfect way to grieve.
After our minor foray into crime, we all went to the ice cream shop called Mitchell’s and ate big hot fudge ice cream sundaes. Mitchell’s was a tradition with Mary. Whenever I came home we would eventually manage to get to Mitchell’s. Naturally when my son was young and we visited Illinois, we found ourselves at Mitchell’s. I remember my son, Andrew, as a 4 year old saying he wanted a banana split which was a huge dish. I objected but Mary completely overruled me. She believed you let people get what they wanted and didn’t worry about if they could finish it or not. “Why not. It has banana in it so it’s good for him,” she said. Andrew loved it and her. She was so generous and thoughtful with him. I also knew how much she cared for her family. She talked about everyone with great pride and unconditional love.  
The last time I saw her was after my mother’s funeral. I was in my mother’s apartment frantically trying to pack everything up as I mourned. There was a soft knock at the door and in came Mary bearing some delicious treat. She sat down and we talked about my mother.  We laughed swapping stories about the fun times we had all had together. Mary helped me sort through my mother’s things. It was so perfect to have that moment alone with her; just the two of us. Her memory was already slipping, but barely. She mentioned it, though not in a depressed way but as a fact of life. She planned to move to Washington State. I knew it was the end of an era. Our time together that day was precious--it was like old times. I miss her."

This tribute was added by Cheryl Legg on 5th September 2014

"Hearing of Mary's passing was a shock to me.   I remember going to see Frank and Mary everyday.   She always had coffee ice cream and offered me a bowl almost everyday.  Frank and Mary were like my second set of grandparents.   They were great neighbors, caring,  and loving.  I will always have those memories."

This tribute was added by John Doody on 16th July 2014

"The Doody Family and all who knew Mary through the office thank God for the incredible privilege of having been Mary's friend.  Everyone who knew her loved her.  Her gentle loving nature coupled with a great sense of humor made all of our lives more joyous. Thank you to Dan and all your loved ones for lovingly caring for her."

This tribute was added by Marissa Arbucci on 16th July 2014

"In Honour of Mary ~ may her good nature, compassion, nonjudgmental attitude, thoughtfulness, generosity, and kindness continue to be present in the world and to live on in the lives of those she touched do dearly. ♥"

This tribute was added by Todd Smerken on 15th July 2014

"As I visited with grandma in Olympia she said "we've had a lot of good times together". We spent a wonderful day together touring the state capital building of Washington state. Walking through Olympia and looking at the absolutely beautiful flower gardens. Followed by a nice lunch with Uncle Dan.  
     Grandma always enjoyed sharing life with family, friends, neighbors and meeting new people.I know her favorite times of the year were Christmas at Mike and Noreen's house with with all the siblings. The 4th of July in Park Forest and of course any time at aunt Millie's! Papa and Nate were good buddies. When we got together, the food was just flat out phenomenal!
     Grandma's beauty and unconditional love made us whom we are. Whether old or young.We all Shine On!"

This tribute was added by Linda Smerken on 15th July 2014

"Our family always had fun going to Aunt Mary and Uncle Frank's house.  Their yard was huge and the perfect playground.  We would play outside until we were exhausted,  and then entertain our families with impromptu plays or singing songs.  The admission price for our talent show was a dime and quite a bargain.   My fondest memories are David trying to hypnotize us or scare us with his monster collection, and  Dan pretending to be Superman, saving the world as he jumped from the furniture  with a towel pinned to his shirt like a cape.  Aunt Mary would spoil us with love and a dinner that still makes my mouth water thinking about it.   In the evening,  Uncle Frank would gather all the kids around and tell us ghost stories with his perfect ghost story voice.  We were all scared,  but we loved every minute of it.   As an adult, I enjoyed spending time with Aunt Mary.  We would go out to eat and go for a drive  and she would reminisce about her life and the places she went and things she did on her own and with her family.   We had fun, and she enjoyed showing me places that meant something special to her.   She was an intelligent,  hard working,  gentle, kind, fun loving woman who was loved by everyone who knew her.  I'm thankful and lucky that she was my Aunt!!!"

This tribute was added by Scott Paul on 14th July 2014

"I view death as a the a completion of one's journey upon this earth. Also, I am grateful if a person who departed instilled a sense of love, empathy, and the invaluable mindset of social justice and acceptance. My Aunt Mary did all of this for me, and I am hoping that I can pass on the same attributes within the universe. Today, I will take some time to reflect on a life well lived and an aunt who modeled the power of acceptance and unconditional love. It is virtually impossible for me to miss my beloved Aunt Mary because her words, radiant smile, and love are instilled within me. Thank you Aunt Mary! From your grateful nephew-Scott"

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This memorial is administered by:

Dan Smerken
Tim Smerken


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