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Marianne Harper McConnell

McConnell, Marianne Harper Marianne Harper McConnell, 73, died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Dallas on April 25, 2013. She is survived by her husband of 50 years, Tom; daughter Anne Koch, her husband John and their sons Jack and Andrew of Boca Raton, Florida; son Allen, his wife Deedee and their daughters Margot and Marissa, and son Conner of Dallas; daughter Lea Fassler, her husband Scott and their daughters Julia and Kate of Mandeville, Louisiana; and sister Lou Irby and her husband Phil and their son Paul of Kaufman, Texas and Moab, Utah, respectively. And by her two Westie "boys" Boomer and Pancho, who surely would have been mentioned before Tom and her children had she organized this post. She lighted no new lamp of learning, scaled no mighty peak, nor strove for achievement in any conventional way. Yet among those who are left only to memory, ask anyone who knew her "Who do you remember with greatest admiration, respect, and love?" and her name will surely be near the top. She was born October 30, 1939 at old St. Paul hospital in Dallas and grew up nearby in Kaufman. She was a graduate of the University of North Texas and a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Although briefly a 2nd grade school teacher at Anson Jones Elementary in the D.I.S.D., her life-long vocation was as a wife and mother; holding together and molding a family and its parts with immeasurable measure. A life-long volunteer, Marianne was awarded the 1992 Unsung Angel Award by Pi Beta Phi for her community work. She was flattered by the recognition. There is grace in making the complex look simple and the difficult look easy; and so it was with her. A long-time friend described her as a "secret mentorwho taught me how to live my life" and as someone who was a "support system" when she was in her "darkest days" some time ago. And a friend of one of her children memorialized her this way: "Your mother is one of those people in whose absence it's difficult to conceive of the world still working. Her death will cause a larger ripple effect among other human beings, to date, than that of any other person I've been fortunate enough to know. Because, of course, her life did." She was genuine, without artifice or vanity. Tellingly, she approved the opening sentence of this obituary. "I do not want it said that I 'passed away.' I died. Why can't they just say so?" In addition to Tom and her dogs, she had a passionate love affair with bold, beautiful colors, which were small windows to her soul. "Mrs. McConnell, are you sure?" That became the expected first question from any painter before laying the first stroke of deep red or bright yellow to a bedroom wall, or purple to her kitchen. And that love of the colors remained to the very end. The reclining chair, a state-of-the-art tan cloth La-Z-Boy purchased in a increasingly desperate effort to help her find a comfortable position in the last few weeks, decidedly did not make the grade. "Can you believe I'm going to let one of those things in the door?" she asked grudgingly. "Don't they have a purple one?" And in a question that was not a question, she later asked Tom: "You are going to get rid of it, aren't you?" Yes, it too is gone. Hers was a quiet effect that grew with time. To know her was to be captured by her genuineness. People liked her instantly. She liked people and wanted to know about them. She was a good listener. Conversation usually did not turn toward her interests. Few ever met anyone with so little "me" in them. At dinner with the Archbishop of Canterbury, she smiled, chatted, and instantly made a new friend. Even during brief encounters with a store clerk or hospital aide, she'd smile, make a little joke, and remember their name; most people instantly identified with and admired her. To her, all people were more than acquaintances or helpers. They were all the same: just people, equal sharers in the human condition. "So nice to know you," not "so nice to meet you," was her natural greeting on seeing someone new. These things made her hard to forget, especially with her smile. That smile, always the smile. Hers was special. It conveyed warmth and pleasure and its effect on others was universal. She had few regrets, all of which were borne of her selflessness. She faced the final few months with the same measure of courage she displayed throughout her life. We can only recall her expressing two regrets after learning that, with cancer of the pancreas, her time remaining would be measured in weeks or months, not years. Sitting in the doctor's office after hearing her fate, she told Tom she hated to leave him, grieving not for herself but for him. And she expressed deep sadness at not being able to attend the weddings of her seven grandchildren. When it was apparent that the chemotherapy she had chosen was not retarding the cancer, she chose to stop treatment and live her remaining days as freely and happily as she could, certain in what would follow before and after her death. Her courage, strength, and faith remained unshaken and unyielding until the end. She was happy. Peace be with you dear sister in Christ. A funeral service will be held at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 8011 Douglas Avenue, Dallas, Texas, at 5:00 p.m. on May 8. A reception will follow at Arlington Hall in Lee Park, 3333 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas, Texas, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Remembering her love for bold colors, especially purple, please consider accenting your attire for the service and reception with a bold splash of color. It'd make her smile, even though she wouldn't want to be the center of attention. In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to The Saint Michael and All Angels Altar Guild, 8011 Douglas Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75225.

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Published in Dallas Morning News from Apr. 30 to May 5, 2013
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