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Life Story / Obituary
Mary Rey lived her life centered in love and an inspiring sense of play. She focused her life on her family and friends, ensuring many fond memories along the way. A naturally friendly soul, Mary welcomed each day's joys and challenges equally. A loving wife, devoted mother, and proud grandmother, Mary embraced her roles with honor and enthusiasm, leading her family by example and celebrating each day as a gift. Memories of Mary will be cherished by many.
Despite the obvious gloom of the growing conflict in Europe, 1939 held much to celebrate, including the end of the Great Depression, the premieres of the classic films Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, regular television began to broadcast nationwide, and The World's Fair was held in New York. As the U.S. actively armed up for war, families continued to center their lives in love and hope for a brighter future. Nowhere was that hope more evident than in Kalamazoo, MI, as Edward and Jeanette McKenna welcomed their daughter, Mary, to their family on November 17, 1939.
Growing up in West Michigan during the 40’s and 50’s, Mary's childhood was rooted in faith and family. Mary's father worked as a bricklayer. Her mother stayed home to raise her kids and returned to her career as a legal secretary once they were grown. Mary was both a firstborn and only daughter. The family lived on Sherwood Street and attended St. Mary's Catholic Church. Mary and her younger brothers, Edward, Pat, and Terry, all attended Catholic school. Before the school was built, Mary and her schoolmates attended class in the church, sitting on the kneelers and using the pews as desks. Her father helped build the church and school.
Mary's mother was a piano player and encouraged Mary and Edward to take piano lessons. Eventually, Mary learned to play both the piano and the organ. As a teen, Mary enjoyed attending football games to socialize with her peers.
After proudly graduating from St. Augustine High School with the class of 1957, Mary took a course in practical nursing. As soon as her coursework required working in the hospital, Mary realized nursing was not her calling. Though she completed her class, she found work as a receptionist at WKZO, a local radio and television station. It became a job she quickly loved. She was the welcoming, on-air voice at the other end of the phone for callers for the show WKZO At Your Service.
While hanging out with the regulars at Flynn's Super Burger on Portage Street in 1958, Mary had the good fortune of meeting Phil Rey. As they began talking, they just kind of happened to hit it off and soon began dating. Over the next year, they courted and made many wonderful memories. Spending the day at Silver Beach in St. Joseph, MI, with friends, proved one of their favorite dates. On October 3, 1959, Mary and Phil exchanged their wedding vows in a marriage ceremony held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kalamazoo, MI, which was officiated by Father Rogford.
The newlyweds made a honeymoon on Lake Michigan's shoreline. They began by traveling Michigan's western shoreline and made their way home through Wisconsin and Chicago, stopping along the way to visit Phil's aunt in Waukegan, Illinois.
Returning to Kalamazoo, Mary and Phil first made their home in a house on Fairbanks Court. This is where they quickly started their family. Son "Sam" was born on June 21, 1960, and followed two years and one day later by son, Mark. Mary left her work at WKZO to devote herself to raising her boys. In the early 70’s, Phil and the boys built a home in Delton together. The family lived there from 1971 until 1985 when they returned to Kalamazoo and made their home on Wheaton Avenue. In May of 1990, Mary and Phil moved to their current home on Bronson Boulevard.
Once the boys were in school full time, Mary returned to WKZO. Later she found work as a receptionist at Lockshore Dairy where she spent 14 years. Following her time at Lockshore, Mary worked at the Kalamazoo Valley Plant Growers (KVPG) Cooperative. She worked at KVPG for 15 years prior to her retirement.
A woman who found joy in the simple things, Mary loved attending local live theatre, listening to performances of the Kalamazoo Concert Band, and playing cards with a group of neighbors in Delton. She tended her flower gardens with great care and enjoyed reading biographies. For over 30 years, Mary enjoyed growing the doll collection she began as a child. She loved going to antique doll shows all around the Midwest. She and Phil created custom dolls and sold them at doll shows in Chicago. She also had a few French dolls in her collection. It wasn't uncommon that Phil sold dolls while Mary was out buying new ones. Though she once sold a significant number of her dolls, she enjoyed her collection for many years. Mary also kept close friendships with the ladies from the Bunko and Doll Clubs through the years, sharing lunch and conversation with life-long friends.
As Mary's family grew to include grandchildren, Mary enthusiastically welcomed becoming a grandmother. She thoroughly enjoyed every moment with her grandchildren. While her grandchildren were young, the family enjoyed many camping adventures. They purchased a fifth wheel to start and later a trailer. For a few years, they parked their trailer at Beech Grove Campground in Marcellus, MI, where they enjoyed spending every night sharing stories and lots of laughter. Mary and Phil became part of the Disney Vacation Club and spent lots of time at Disney’s Hilton Head Resort golfing and shopping as well as several great trips to Walt Disney World. Mary also enjoyed the special friendship of several canine companions over the years: Toby, a Cairn Terrier; her little Scottish Terrier, Mac; and her Westie, Clancy, all held special places in her heart.
Without a doubt, life feels less certain in the absence of Mary's bright and beautiful presence. And while she will be ever so missed, her family and friends will find comfort in carrying her legacy forward. We celebrate the many ways Mary gifted our lives with each spring’s bloom we relish, every trip to Disney we enjoy, and each card game we play. In these ways, we keep her inspiration and spirit alive.
Mary Jean Rey, age 80, of Kalamazoo passed away peacefully surrounded by family, on June 5, 2020. Mary was born to Edward and Jeanette McKenna on November 17, 1939. Mary is survived by her husband of 60 years, Phillip Rey; her children: Phillip Edward "Sam" (Deb) Rey and Mark (Lyn) Rey; 6 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren, and her brother, Patrick McKenna. She is preceded in death by her grandson, Christian, and her brothers, Edward and Terrence McKenna. A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, August 15, at 2 P.M. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Burial will take place later at Fort Custer Cemetery, Augusta, MI. Please visit Mary's personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook. Memorial Contributions may be made to St. Augustine Catholic Church or SPCA of Southwest Michigan, both located in Kalamazoo, MI.