Mary J. Meyer (Christiansen) | Passages

Mary J. Meyer (Christiansen) passed from this life on April 7, one day before her 85th birthday. Mary was in a good place; happy to be residing at the gracious Bay Oaks Historic Retirement Home, among dear friends and very close to her children, Marya and Paul, granddaughter Lucia, and daughter-in-law Claudia, in Miami, Florida.

Mary was born in Knapp, Wisconsin, graduated from Augsburg College and began teaching in Oakland, California, before moving to her beloved La Crosse, Wisconsin, to be close to her sister, Marjorie Wheeler. There she met and married attorney Bill Meyer. Mary loved her students, teaching both Spanish and music, directed the Chapel Choir at English Lutheran Church and performed as an organist, vocalist and pianist across the city until visiting, and eventually residing, close to her children in Madrid, Spain, from 1984-1992. That year she fell in love with Orcas Island in the San Juans and purchased the historic cook’s house in the iconic Rosario Estates. Mary became a vibrant part of the island’s music scene, playing for, performing with and being cared for by a kind and creative community.

Born on a farm near Menomonie, Wisconsin, Mary hit the ground running; she could throw a ball farther than all the boys in her one-room country grade school and taught herself how to play piano by ear when she was four years old. Her parents, Ben and Mabel, loved to recount the story, “We walked into the room and there she was, playing up a storm!” From Knapp and La Crosse to Madrid and Orcas Island, Mary Meyer made her contagiously joyful mark. She was a true people-person, teacher, storyteller, cheerleader, elegant entertainer, lover of nature and humanity, full of punny humor and a terrific cook to boot. In the words of family friend and author Marcelline Thomson, “… [an] indelible image is of her in the kitchen, elbows on the counter, face propped in her hands as she fixed you with that penetrating gaze. At those moments you were the sole object of her attention, her interest and curiosity unbounded.”

Her former students often told her family how she was one of those teachers who had changed their lives. She gave people energy and the faith in themselves that whoever they were was exactly the authentic person they should be. With her irreplaceable and larger-than-life persona, she met health and other challenges with a characteristic tenacity and resilience, living a rich and full life before transitioning peacefully, loved and cared for.

To celebrate her legacy, Marya and Paul suggest that you sing a song you love out loud. Memorial donations, if desired, can be sent to support the residents, musical programs and three pianos at Bay Oaks, 435 NE 34th St., Miami, FL, a 501(c)(3) founded some 60 years ago by the Soroptimists Club who believed that retirement should be dignified.