September 9, 1927 – March 27, 2020
Mary Katherine Picard-Schneider, 92, passed away peacefully at JourneyCare Hospice in Arlington Heights, Illinois on March 27, 2020 following complications from a fall. She is survived and celebrated by her children Susan Perry West (Phillip), Thomas Perry (Elyson), Jay R Perry (Dawn), and Bradley Perry (Jodie), fourteen grandchildren and twenty-two great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her beloved son Richard (Vivian), and husband Gerald Schneider.
Born and raised in Champaign, Illinois Mary was athletic, humorous, beautiful and caring. Though she grew up during the Great Depression she recalled a happy childhood playing with her siblings at the ‘bone ditch’, spending hours reading at the town library, and running, never walking, everywhere. She often reminisced with gratitude that the Salvation Army had provided clothing to her family during hard times and had given a gift to each child at Christmas. Sometimes that was her only gift. Because of that memory, for the rest of her
long life Mary put money in every red Salvation Army bucket she encountered. When a friend gifted Mary’s family with a YMCA membership, it was life changing for her. Through her participation in the excellent YMCA swim program in Champaign she discovered her natural athletic talent, trained hard and became an olympic caliber swimmer. Backstroke was her specialty. Though World War II caused the cancellation of the Olympics in which Mary might have competed, her success with swimming inspired a love for athletic endeavors that continued throughout her life. She regularly enjoyed tennis, golf, jogging, hiking, yoga, and of course, swimming.
Following high school graduation Mary enlisted in the United States Army Nurse Cadet Corps and attended the Julia F. Burnham School of Nursing, graduating in 1948. Because the war had ended, Mary chose to be discharged from the Army. She married Richard E. Perry shortly after graduation. They had five children together and made their home in Bensenville, Illinois.
In her late 30’s Mary set a goal for herself to attain her bachelor’s degree. While mothering five children aged 4 to 15 she began taking one or two college classes at a time. Her daughter Susan remembers watching as her Mom rehearsed for speech class. For her first speech Mary chose to describe her experience from nurses’ training when she had observed an autopsy. Mary was highly entertained by the reactions of her much younger classmates upon hearing that presentation. She received an A for that speech and earned new respect
from her eighteen year-old fellow students. After ten years of part time study Mary earned her college degree.
The highlight of Mary’s nursing career by far was her twenty years as the school nurse at Fenton High School in Bensenville. Mary enjoyed being with teenagers and understood very well the teenage condition with all its complexity. Students and many teachers sought her counsel about their physical and sometimes emotional complaints. She was a good nurse and a good listener. Her often irreverent sense of humor had an appeal in the high school setting.
During her years at Fenton all four of Mary’s sons attended the school and all four represented Fenton on the varsity wrestling team. Watching Mary watch her sons wrestle was quite the spectacle. Arms flailing, sometimes eyes covered, worried for their physical safety, Mary was always on the edge of her seat.
Following retirement and remarriage, Mary moved to Tucson, Arizona where she and new husband Gerald designed and oversaw the building of their beautiful adobe home. Their attention to detail and love of the natural Arizona landscape was obvious to anyone lucky enough to visit them in their new location. Through Tucson’s Newcomers’ Club Mary and her husband met a wonderful group of fellow retirees from all over. These new acquaintances became Mary’s hiking buddies, lunch mates, mahjong partners and dear friends. Monthly gatherings to share food, cocktails and laughter continued for all of the years Mary was in Tucson.
Mary was an avid reader, an accomplished knitter and expert seamstress. Her love for travel took her twice to Europe as a chaperone for Fenton High School music department trips and once to France, the country of her grandfather. She also loved being in Hawaii, Santa Fe, California and Florida’s Sanibel Island.
Babies and young children held a warm place in Mary’s heart. She remarked on every little one she saw while out and about. It gave her joy just to be noticed with a smile or a wave from a small child. She never tired of being with her children and their children. As a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Mary was special. She taught her children that ‘actions speak louder than words’. Taking that lesson to heart all five of her children traveled to Tucson to surprise her at her home for her 70th and 80th birthdays. On her 75th birthday the entire family including nearly all of her grandchildren gathered in Las Vegas for a celebratory party. Each person at the party gifted Mary by retelling a special Mom or Grandma Mary memory. It was a great night filled with laughter and
Plans for a celebration of Mary’s life are pending.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts, in Mary’s name may be made to the Salvation Army.
For funeral information , please call JGeils Funeral Services at 630-247-6623