Mary Funk, a resident of Keene, died on Jan. 27, 2020, surrounded by members of her family at the age of 96, having lived a rich and varied life.
Born into the family of Karl and Estelle Pettit in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 23, 1923, she had three brothers and three sisters. Later, her family relocated to Princeton, N.J.
In 1942, while a student at Vassar, she married Peter Funk and left Vassar to follow him to the West Coast prior to his deployment to the Pacific as a Marine officer. During World War II, an act of Mary’s spontaneous kindness to an older woman led to her being invited to reside at the La Jolla Beach Club in California for the duration of the conflict.
Mary had always loved art and was a gifted artist, painting in oils and watercolors as well as drawing amusing cartoons. During her stay in La Jolla, Mary pursued her art, building on training she had received at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She maintained her interest in art throughout her life.
Mary’s and Peter’s marriage proved to be exceptionally loving and long-lasting. They were married for 74 years until Peter passed away in 2016. They had seven children, four boys and three girls. They raised their children in New Jersey and Connecticut, much of the time on Amity Farm in Lambertville, N.J. Mary thrived on the farm with her family. Among many other things, she started and ran a day camp for children.
Later the family moved to Princeton, N.J. In 2008, they relocated to Keene near their son, Dr. Mark Funk, and his wife, Alice, who have a farm in Roxbury.
Mary carried out the challenge of raising seven children with great enthusiasm, sensibility, humor, and extraordinary love. Her adventures during those years could fill a book — and in fact, directly and indirectly, they appeared in several books authored by her husband. These included “My Six Loves,” “Love and Consequences,” and “High Spirits,” which were inspired by Mary and their large and lively family.
Despite the demands of child raising, she found time to assist Peter with his writing. Following in the footsteps of his father, Wilfred Funk, a writer and publisher, he wrote a monthly column for the Reader’s Digest called “It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power,” and she provided invaluable editing and organization for the column. Throughout her life, she acted as a lynchpin for her very large, extended family including her brothers and sisters, their spouses and children together with many other family members. Her kindness, enthusiasm and organizational ability helped to keep them in touch over the years.
During Mary’s last years, her daughter Celine and sons, Mark and John, provided devoted care. Her other children Peter, Paul, Mary and Eleanor, living more distantly, also provided support and love as well. Our family is deeply appreciative of the love and dedication provided by the wonderful caregivers who assisted in Mary’s care during her final years.
Mary is survived by her children, Peter, John, Celine, Mark, Mary, Paul and Eleanor; their spouses; 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. She will be greatly missed by them and all who knew her for her tremendous generosity of spirit, her loving and optimistic nature, and her lively sense of humor.
A memorial service will be held in St. James Episcopal Church, 44 West St., Keene, on Feb. 22, 2020, at 1 p.m. Donations in her honor may be given to the church.
The Foley Funeral Home of Keene is assisting the family with the arrangements. To offer online condolences to the family or to share special memories, please visit www.foleyfuneralhome.com.