Mary Lee Burrus
1935 - 2020
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Mary Lee Burrus
1935-2020
Born and raised in McKinney, Texas, and educated at Baylor University, where she majored in literature and education, Mary Lee Powell Burrus moved to Houston in 1958 with her husband Sidney Burrus. In over sixty-two years of marriage, Mary Lee and Sidney, both notably independent spirits, raised two children, shared travel adventures and domestic life, and supported each other in their individual pursuits, in a context shaped profoundly by Rice University and Covenant Church. A school teacher in her twenties and a piano teacher in the years when her children were young, Mary Lee later forged rewarding careers in the oil industry and the Rice development office.
Mary Lee's extraordinary gifts of hospitality supported Sidney and Mary Lee's shared commitment to nurturing community life, perhaps most notably in their five years as "magisters" of Lovett College at Rice. She was a wonderful cook and a witty conversationalist, and she dressed with flair and elegance. Her impressive organizational skills, intellectual acuity, articulateness, and adaptability also made her a valued contributor in countless contexts; a natural leader, she had a gift for gently bringing structure to any meeting she was in. Always intellectually and socially engaged, she participated in movements for women's rights and racial justice, and she served as chair of the deacons and in other leadership roles in Covenant Church. She also followed politics closely all her life and was pleased to have been able to vote for Joe Biden by absentee ballot shortly before her death. At eighty-five, she was still an active member of several serious literary book groups and always eager to talk with family and friends about what she was reading.
Grandparenting was one of the most cherished joys of her life. A patient and responsive listener, she considered it a great luxury to be able to spend time with each of her grandchildren one-on-one. At family gatherings, she was famous for beginning meals by asking each person to tell the group how they were really doing; she truly wanted to know. She was tolerant and accepting, and also sharply insightful and opinionated—one of her many graceful balancing acts.
On October 13, 2020, Mary Lee departed life quietly in her home in the Brazos Towers retirement community in Houston. She is celebrated and mourned by her husband, Sidney Burrus; by her two children, Virginia Burrus and Charles Hendrix Burrus, and their spouses, Glenn Peers and Carol Hendrix Burrus; and by her four grandchildren, James Burrus Kelly, Mary Burrus Kelly, Evan Hendrix Burrus, and Claire Hendrix Burrus.
Donations may be made in Mary Lee's honor to Covenant Church (covenanthouston.org/giving) and the League of Women Voters (lwv.org). For information about her virtual memorial service, please visit covenanthouston.org/in-memoriam.

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Published in Houston Chronicle on Oct. 15, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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16 entries
October 20, 2020
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Priscilla Jane Huston
October 20, 2020
Sidney, Charlie, Ginny, and to the rest of the family - I’m so sorry for your loss. I admired Mary Lee and enjoyed the many conversations I had with her at gatherings. She was particularly kind and insightful after my own mother passed away, and I will always be grateful for that. What an insightful and strong minded person she was, who carried herself with such assurance and elegance. All told, a remarkable human being! My heartfelt condolences to you all.
Laura Michaelides
Friend
October 20, 2020
Our condolences and care to the entire family. We are sorry for your loss. Love, Mary Koch and Ron Cookston
Mary Koch
October 19, 2020
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MICHAEL HALPERT
October 19, 2020
I met Mary Lee when we came to Houston in 1993. She was one of the nicest, most charming ladies I ever had the pleasure to meet. I loved it when she was the Rice development person on a trip with us. To Sid and family, I am so sorry for your loss. She will always be with you in your hearts.
Elizabeth Gillis, friend
Elizabeth Gillis
Friend
October 18, 2020
Our condolences for the family’s loss. May she live through memories and action.
Rita Saylors and Thorpe Butler
Rita Saylors
Friend
October 17, 2020
Heartfelt condolences to Sidney and family. Very vividly remember Mary, her charming smile and warm hospitality. May her soul Rest In Peace.

Satish Nagarajaiah
Friend, Rice colleague
Satish
Friend
October 17, 2020
I knew the entire Burrus family when we were at Sid Rich right across the now-gone parking lot and then got to see them occasionally at Brazos where my dad is. Great memories from my early teen years of the entire family. Mrs. Burrus was quite the wonderful lady and I know her family and friends will miss her.
David Leeds
Acquaintance
October 17, 2020
Thank for my fabulous piano lessons. I will always remember your hard work. We will all miss you.
Rebecca Stone
Neighbor
October 16, 2020
Mary Lee Burrus was a remarkable person. In the mid-1990s when I was a relatively new member of Covenant, I served on the building committee as our congregation contemplated construction at 4949 Caroline. One of the joys of being on that committee was that Mary Lee Burrus was also a committee member. We met every Monday night, at Richard Huff's house, for nearly five years; and it was during that time, that I came to love and respect Mary Lee. She was a kind-hearted and personable woman who always exhibited gentle sophistication. Every time I saw her, she was the same. She and I were both bibliophiles and we were both interested in cooking. I still serve a dish or two that have roots in Mary Lee’s kitchen. For over two decades, I have counted Mary Lee among my dearest friends. Though I am deeply saddened that she has passed away, I am also confident that we are still lovingly connected in the palm of God’s hand.
Gary Brown
Friend
October 16, 2020
My piano teacher. I once introduced her as that and Sid as her husband. She thought that was pretty funny. (Note: Sid was also one of my professors.)

Condolences to her family.
Alex Johnson
Student
October 15, 2020
A kind and gracious lady who will be sorely missed. Our sincere condolences to the family. Sincerely, John and Shirley Bland
Shirley Northcutt Bland
Acquaintance
October 15, 2020
Mary Lee welcomed all into her home. It was such an honor to know her. She will be deeply missed. May she rest in peace.
Ann Doerr
Friend
October 15, 2020
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Emmanuel Tunley
October 15, 2020
We send our Condolences to Sidney and the family. We lived down the street for several years and our families enjoyed being in the neighborhood. We now live in North Alabama.
Scott & Marguerite Stone
Friend
October 14, 2020
I am so aware and grateful for the year that Mary Lee and Sidney (and Ginny and Charlie) shared their lives with me and the other students of Will Rice College. As they modeled a healthy family presence for us, they had a lasting influence not only on my life, but on how I tried to be a good partner to my wife and how I tried to parent my own children with respect. On our return to Houston almost 50 years after that shared year, reconnection with Mary Lee, Sidney, and the Burrus family has been among our most rewarding experiences, even as we were painfully aware of her physical frailty, especially in the context of the pandemic which was so isolating. We, along with the hundreds of folks who knew her over her long and productive life among us, already miss the blessing of her personality and her physical presence. We know she deserved respite, but our memories of her will always remain in our hearts.
Rev. Dan King
Friend
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