Mary Lee Burrus
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