Mary Ann Duncan, May 11, 1929 to Sept. 15, 2019
Mary Ann Duncan, 90, who possessed a youthfulness that belied her age, died at home Sunday, September 15, 2019 in Seattle. Beloved by her family, Mary’s optimism and sense of humor earned her countless devoted and dear friends. A nurse at Harborview Hospital attending her this spring told her daughter one morning “I hope you realize just how special your mom is!” The answer was “Yes! Absolutely!”
Born in Helena, Montana, May 11, 1929, she was the only girl among the five children of Victor and Martha Magnus. She and her brothers were raised ranching and farming in Montana’s Ruby River Valley, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Carlton Duncan, her husband of 42 years, proposed to her at sunset while sitting on the ridge above the namesake spring on her family’s Silver Spring Ranch. They married on July 6, 1947, and eventually settled in Marysville and Everett where they raised their three children, Carolyn, Barbara and Larry.
Carl worked at Boeing and the shipyards in Seattle. Mary was a stay-at-home mom and didn’t learn to drive until she was in her 30’s. She got her license, became a store clerk and eventually went to Everett Community College. After that, Mary, who had never used a telephone or visited a doctor until she married at age 18 and moved to Portland, became a finance clerk who eventually helped lead the transition to computerization in the Snohomish County Finance Department. She also successfully led an effort that resulted in a significant upgrade in the classification and pay grade for finance clerks. After 20 years with the county, she retired in 1994.
In retirement she traveled the world with her friends, mostly with Glenna (Pudg) Rose and her sister-in-law Donna Duncan. She first met Pudg in 1947 as neighbors in the same Portland apartment building. It was the leading edge of the post-war Baby Boom and Pudg (who is now 95 years old) loves to tell the story that all the females in the eight-unit building were pregnant, including the cat. Mary, Pudg and Donna all became mothers in 1948 (to Carolyn, Bill and John) and stayed close the rest of their lives.
Like her mother before her, Mary was a legendary cook. Her brothers’ favorites included her banana cream pie and Lindy loved her fudge. Spanish Rice in the roaster on the stove was always a welcome sight when her kids got home from school, and she fried chicken the way her mother did; there was none better anywhere.
Every summer Carl put Mary and the kids on a train to Montana and picked them up in August and drove them back home. After she learned to drive, she and the kids made the trip themselves. The summers in Montana helped her stay close to her family and friends and, especially to her youngest brother Victor, nicknamed Dutze. Nobody remembers how the nickname evolved but he’s 76 years old and family still calls him Dutze.
He was 15 years younger than Mary and only 4 years older than Carolyn. Dutze says she was like a second mother, but Carolyn says, no, Mary wasn’t as tough on him as she was on her, Barbara and Larry!!! Mary loved her sisters-in-law—her four brothers’ wives and all her nieces and nephews and loved to keep up on their lives. Not having a sister, she become as close as a sister to John’s wife Shirley Redfield Magnus, and to Carl’s brother’s wife, Donna Rowe Duncan.
Deep purple dahlias lined the whole side of Mary’s garage at her Everett home; the fuchsia in the front corner of the house never ceased to delight her; and each spring she was thrilled anew over the fluffy pink cherry blossoms on the tree in back. Climbing roses cascaded from the front of her last house in Marysville and lush pots of flowers graced her front porch. Every year she and her kids would U-Pick strawberries and raspberries. She would buy a case of peaches and pay us 50 cents to slip the peels off in our small production line. She was given beets, cucumbers and apples from friends’ gardens. "Quarts of peaches, pickles, and applesauce; and pints of jam and jelly lined their Marysville pantry shelves".
She had a kind heart, was funny and smart, and interested in the world around her until the day she died. She was a Democrat and very troubled by current politics and a devoted Mariners fan who was able to attend games until she was 89.
During her last two weeks on earth, she went on an excursion to the Ballard Lock fish ladder. She rocked and cooed to her two-month-old great grandson, Leif, until they both fell asleep on the couch, and then ventured off to the Olive Garden for lunch with her friends.
She was a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Marysville most of her adulthood, and the church was the core of her young family’s social life in the 1950’s and early ‘60’s.Two of her closest friends and their families were lifelong members of Bethlehem Lutheran: Lucille (Lou) Moore and Lillian (Tilly) Wiklund and our lives were intertwined and so fun with the exception of Lou shushing us in choir during church.
Tilly shared Mary’s May 11 birthday, which often fell on Mother’s Day. That in turn prompted a lot of cake baking and cake eating. Tilly’s husband Stan, and Mary’s Carl became best friends and their kids did too. It was the formula for a lifetime of fun, laughs and knuckleheads. And not to forget the camping, clamming, crabbing, fishing, dancing, traveling and pickled-herring eating at many a home smorgasbord. Hardworking, interesting, active, funny and fun are some of the best words to describe Mary, Carl, Tilly and Stan. Stan’s daughter Janet said that Stan never got over Carl’s death from cancer in 1989.
Another dear friend was Olga Browning who Mary met at her first job as a sundries clerk at B&M grocery store. They wore white nurse-like uniforms and put on beach hats and leis for Hawaiian Days. Olga’s husband Ken clicked with Carl, and like the Wiklunds, they camped and traveled and shared decades of fun and friendship.
Mary stayed informed about current events and never stopped learning new things. She bought a big dictionary in the ‘70s and kept it handy to look up new words. She loved a good novel and regularly read her Bible. She took up piano lessons in her 50’s after a 30-year pause; participated in Bible study for decades; learned to swim in her 40’s and had season tickets to theater and music performances. She loved to dance and for years frequented live-music venues throughout Snohomish County with her close friend Lorenzo (Larry) Negrette.
She kept up with clothing and hair styles (although she complained about her haircuts for the last 20 years); loved her Mariners logo wear; was an elite sale-shopper; and sometimes wore a ring on nearly every finger, jewelry she purchased during her travels. She was blessed with a beautiful complexion and the colors pink and red were especially flattering. She gave her daughter Carolyn ‘thumbs down’ for filling her closet with Seattle grey and black; Mary encouraged her to wear something ‘peppy!’
Carolyn and Barbara claimed that Larry, the youngest, could do no wrong in Mary’s eyes but maybe the girls just did a great job paving the way so their parents had eased up a bit on the rules. After Carl died, Mary counted on Larry to do the handy-man--and even bigger--jobs around the house that Carl once did. After Carolyn retired five years ago, she and Larry agreed that she would take the lead on getting taking Mary to the doctor and to some of her life-long favorite places like the tulip fields and Deception Pass.
Having her children at a young age seemed to help make Mary a more-fun mother. She was always thinking of things to do and places to go. She thought it was good for people’s mental health. In return, she expected a lot of her kids, which helped them find success as adults. She was devoted to her grandchildren and great grandchildren and spoiled them with a ‘candy drawer,’ piles of Christmas gifts when they were young and was still sending birthday checks when she died. She was proud of Barbara and Carolyn’s artwork and kept everyone’s business cards so she could remember their job titles and be better able to share their accomplishments with her friends.
She loved the beach and believed swimming lessons were essential to protect her kids and grandkids from one type of possible harm. Mukilteo was close to her Everett home and a favorite place to spend the day with her kids, and then her grandkids when they were little. Burgers were, conveniently, four for a dollar at Taylor’s Landing in the 60’s. It became Ivar’s in the ‘80’s so the beach picnic lunch changed to fish and chips for the grands.
Mary suffered many health issues during the last ten years, including cancer, two strokes, pneumonia, a fibrillation and heart failure. She got tangled up in her slippers in April this year and spent 3 weeks in the hospital—including her 90th birthday--after breaking five ribs and her ankle. She was treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this February and had surgery to remove a giant kidney stone last winter. She faced it all with courage and grace and her caregivers were unanimous and ceaseless in their praise of her character and sense of humor. We are especially grateful for her excellent care by doctors at Swedish Physicians, Swedish and Harborview Hospitals and the loving staff at Brookdale Senior Living, her home the last two years.
Mary was preceded in death by Carl in1989 whose jaw cancer metastasized and he suffered greatly during many years of disfiguring treatment. Mary was tireless in caring for, and giving moral support to her sweetheart, Carl Duncan.
In addition to Carl, she was preceded in death by their daughter Barbara Miller (John) in 2015 as well as brother Lindy Magnus and Nevin Magnus. She is survived by daughter Carolyn Duncan and son Larry Duncan (Gail), six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, her brother John Magnus and Victor Magnus, and Carl’s and her brothers’ families. A Memorial Service and Reception are Sept. 29 at 2 p.m., the Hall at Fauntleroy, 9131 California Ave., SW, Seattle.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Mary’s name to your favorite nonprofit organization. Mary had volunteered for years at the Marysville Blood Bank and the free coffee and cookies group at Smokey Point I5 rest stop, contributed to the American Cancer Society after Carl’s and Barbara’s deaths, and loved Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Marysville. She contributed, too, to the Spokane Salvation Army where her brother Nevin had been a board member and volunteer. But you decide who you’d like to support in Mary’s name.
To send flowers to Mary's family, please visit our floral section.