Our beautiful Mary passed away peacefully on Mother’s Day with her daughter Marsha and granddaughter Gracie by her side. Mary resided in Carol Stream, Illinois for over five decades. She grew up in Watha, North Carolina, where folks knew her as Mary Emily. Her parents, John and Mary Davis, had five children: Mary Emily, Kathleen, John B., Bill, and Ronnie. Life centered around their tobacco farm. They served dinner mid-day, as the heat rose from the fields. Everyone on the road was related to one another. Mary’s aunts, uncles, and cousins were very close. Even as a child, Mary experienced the bonds that only family can bring. Life on the farm (during the Great Depression, no less) required hard work. Surely, her upbringing grounded Mary’s lifelong work ethic.
She met the love of her life while working at Belks Department store in Wilmington, North Carolina. Tracy Engle was dashing and charismatic. Mary’s first introduction to Tracy was when he sang at the Belks Christmas party. What a voice! Tracy asked Mary for a date over the glove counter. The rest is history.
After several moves, Mary and Tracy settled in Carol Stream, Illinois. They had two daughters, Debbie and Marsha, born four years apart. They also had a nutty dog named Sunny Apollo who took joy in nipping at anyone who came by the house. Where to begin describing life in Carol Stream? Neighbors left their doors open, and the children played together in the yards. The many friends from Apache Lane passed time chatting on summer evenings, playing Barn Ball, and celebrating proms, graduations, and weddings. Years rolled by — and, of course, some folks moved away — but the love was steadfast. In the end, two neighbors remained, Carole Hible and Mary Engle. They weren’t just neighbors, but dear life-long friends.
The Hallberg family played a similarly important role in Mary’s life. The Hallbergs and the Engles lived life together for nearly six decades. Every summer, they caravanned to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Every Christmas Eve, they huddled together and sang Christmas carols. (Mary’s part was always to sing “Five Golden Rings” in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”) The families shared life’s celebrations as well as its challenges. The Hallberg family and the Engle family are one and the same.
Mary was blessed with three beautiful granddaughters. Emma and Lila, Deb’s daughters, grew up in Los Angeles, California. Gracie, Marsha and Mark’s daughter, was raised in Geneva, Illinois. Mary was so proud of her girls. Her role as “Grandmare” and “Gamma” was precious to her.
Mary was deeply committed to her work. She spent decades working at Olson Construction Company. She called herself the “office manager,” and she was a great help to the owner and founder, Ralph Olson. He and Mary worked through some difficult times. The recession during the 80’s was rough; Ralph and Mary worked side by side to save the business. Mary loved everyone within the Olson Construction family.
Another important part of Mary Engle’s life was Wheaton Drama. She was known for set decoration, and she worked diligently with fellow volunteers to create magic on the stage. What fun Mary and Tracy had as part of this organization. While Tracy was on stage, Mary was back stage —the Wheaton Drama community provided countless friends and memories!
Service was a large part of Mary’s life. She was a long-time volunteer at Glen Ellyn’s Treasure House, where she worked behind the register. She was also a member of P.E.O. (Chapter JO) and an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton. She loved her weekly bridge group, book club, and yoga group. She was always busy!
But she always found time for her loved ones: Mary was famous for her Coconut Cake and BBQ meatballs. She enjoyed a weekly martini with her son-in-law and dinners on Sunday night at Marsha and Mark’s. She loved traveling to Los Angeles to visit her daughter Deb and her girls.
Mary was also quite the seamstress. Her sewing machine created dozens of beautiful garments for her daughters growing up. In later years, her sewing machine did good for the community. One of her last projects focused on making dresses for little girls from impoverished countries. Mary took great care to make the dresses special, adorning them with trim, rick rack, and little buttons. She recognized that this might be the only dress the child would have to wear.
Mary was always one to listen and to advise. Some folks are put on this earth to make the world a better place. That was our Mary. Her Southern roots not only gave her strong common sense, but also a few “Maryisms.” We all heard her say, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” and “Keep on keeping on!” more than a few times. She was a font of Southern wisdom and had a wonderful sense of humor. Mary loved people, and she surrounded herself with amazing friends.
Mary was also a devout Christian who lived by the Golden Rule. Her faith sustained her all her life. She gave of herself, her time, her talents, and her love to all. She will be sorely missed by her family and her countless friends, but we find comfort knowing she is with God. Surely, there is a sewing machine in heaven and a nice dry martini waiting? Most importantly, Mary is reunited with Tracy, Mary and John Davis, Kathleen and John B., and many of her dear friends.
A memorial service to celebrate Mary’s life will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois on July 14, 2021 at 10:00 am. Mary will be buried next to Tracy at Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Burgaw, NC in September 2021.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Wheaton Drama, Inc., 111 N. Hale Street or The Hopewell Cemetery Fund, C/O Millard Murray, 1280 White Stocking Road, Burgaw, NC. 28425.
Arrangements handled by Malone Funeral Home in Geneva. For information 630-232-8233 or www.malonefh.com.
To send flowers to Mary D. (Davis) Engle's family, please visit our floral store.