Mary Louise (Gordon) Heiss

Obituary
  • "I was shocked and saddened to hear that Mary Lou had been..."
    - Caroline Liebenow
  • "You and your family are in my heart and mind, my..."
    - Ming Sung Tan
  • "Dear Bob, I just heard of Lou's death. While we have not..."
    - Beth Eisenberg
  • "Dear Bob, I just heard, and I am so sorry to hear of Mary..."
    - Peter Warren
  • "Bob, I just heard. My heart is aching. Yours must be too...."
    - Kathleen Hasbrouck

SUNDERLAND/NORTHAMPTON – Mary Louise (Gordon) Heiss, 66, passed graciously from this life Sunday, April 9, 2017. She was resting peacefully at Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst following a valiant struggle against a series of complications related to her MDS blood cancer diagnosis in August of 2015. Her husband and business partner of 43 years, Bob Heiss, was at her side when she passed.

In addition to her husband Robert J. Heiss, she leaves many cousins, friends, and colleagues.

Mary Lou was born and raised in Clinton, daughter of the late Leo F. and Laura T. (Ciavola) Gordon. She was a graduate of Clinton High School, and earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from UMass Amherst in 1972.

Co-founder and co-owner (with Bob) of Coffee Gallery 1974-1995, Cooks Shop Here 1995-2008, and Tea Trekker 2004-present; Mary Lou was a prominent Northampton business person and internationally-recognized food expert. Mary Lou was the author or co-author of 4 books, including The Story of Tea, A Cultural History and Drinking Guide (Ten Speed Press, 2007) which was a finalist for a James Beard Cookbook Award in 2008.

Coffee Gallery / Cooks Shop Here in Northampton, was one of the first specialty foods stores in the US during the early period of "gourmet home cooking" inspired by cookbook authors such as Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Diana Kennedy, and Madhur Jaffrey. Mary Lou's interest in culturally- authentic and artisan or farmer-produced foods sourced world-wide led her to introduce many ingredients and condiments previously little-known on American dining tables.

Mary Lou had a superb palate that allowed her to excel at tasting coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil, and other origin-specific, artisan foods professionally.

Tea Trekker, Mary Lou's current passion, expressed her love of foods that represent origin, time, and place. Tea and tea culture as expressed by its varied and specifically unique, localized decorative arts were a passion for Mary Lou and she excelled in grouping tea and tea wares that made sense from the standpoint of cultural integrity, origin and historic use.

Mary Lou had an uncanny ability to differentiate quality from hyped, inferior products and services. She was an astute buyer of merchandise and she excelled in presenting quality goods and their background stories. Many Valley residents have fond memories of shopping for special treats and newly-discovered staples at one of the variations of her food store over the years.

She could not tolerate pretentious ignorance or the questioning of learned, expert knowledge for sport.

Her interests included photography, cooking special foods and meals that were cohesive, culturally accurate, and ingredient-wise in terms of origin and season.

Her keen eyes and steady hands encouraged her to focus her travel and food writing on meaningful topics. The result of this sensitivity was that Mary Lou was an accomplished photojournalist who contributed to numerous periodicals. For many years she posted articles and images on her blog: aneducatedpalate.wordpress.com, which is still accessible for those wishing to read some of her work.

Mary Lou had a deep appreciation for Native American culture, design, and artwork. She had an 'eye' for ceramics, and an appreciation of both early and modern Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, Italian, and Southwest American Indian styles and methods of ceramic craft.

An active individual, Mary Lou loved walking and being out of doors especially in the mountains and on the coast. Some favorite destinations were Cape Ann, mid-coast Maine, Alsace, the Auvergne, New Mexico, Kyoto, and tea gardens in Japan. She continued to work through her illness, right up until the beginning of March of this year.

She loved music especially classical, liturgical, classical Christmas, oldies, Americana, and more.

Several of her treasured memories were her trip with Bob to Christmas Markets in Alsace and Germany in 2012, an IACP professional's culinary field trip to Puebla, Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead in 2003, and exploring Kyoto, Southwest France, New Mexico, San Francisco, and Maine on many occasions.

She was a member of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce for many years and participated in activities of the Downtown Business Association. Locally, she supported the United Way, the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, the Northampton Survival Center, Cancer Connection, Safe Passage, and other community groups. Internationally, Mercy Corps was her .

Funeral services and burial are private. There are no calling hours. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice of the Fisher Home or Mercy Corps.

McNally & Watson Funeral Home, 304 Church St., Clinton, is directing arrangements. To share a memory of Mary Lou, or offer condolences to her family and friends, please visit www.mcnallywatson.com.

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Funeral Home
McNally & Watson Funeral & Cremation Service
304 CHURCH ST
Clinton, MA 01510
(978) 365-3144
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Apr. 12, 2017
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