Mary J. Barry, age 92, passed away on June 17, 2020, in Fairbanks. She was born Mary Jane Paulsteiner on Feb. 5, 1928, to parents John and Johanna Paulsteiner in Seward, Alaska. After graduating high school in 1945, she worked for the Army Transportation Service in Seward, excited to start at the "inflated wartime salary" of 88 cents an hour. In the fall of 1946 she boarded a ship for California to attend UCLA, where she majored in English. While on a summer break, she met Melvin Barry in Palmer, Alaska. They married after her college graduation in 1951 and the two settled in the Government Hill neighborhood of Anchorage where they raised two sons. Mary lived in that house until several years after Mel's death, when she moved to Fairbanks to be near her son Ron.
Mary worked various jobs, including administrative work for the Native hospital and editing publications for UAA's Alaska Center for International Business. She was the author of multiple books on Alaskan history, including "Alaska's Ghosts, Enigmas, Outlaws, and Things That Go Bump!: Folklore of the Last Frontier"; "A History of Mining on the Kenai Peninsula"; and the three-volume "Seward, Alaska: A History of the Gateway City." "The Samovar: Its History and Use" was especially popular with tourists at Anchorage gift shops. In 1996, the Alaska Historical Society presented Mary with the Evangeline Atwood Award for "significant long-term contributions to Alaska state or local history."
Mary collected antiques. She was an avid reader. She could play nearly any stringed instrument, but her main instrument was piano, on which she entertained friends and family with lively ragtime tunes. She loved to travel and take photographs. Her pets held a special place in her heart, starting with her beloved childhood collie Buddy and continuing through DiDi, the little cat who kept her company in Mary's last years. She maintained long-term friendships with college friends from her co-op house Twin Pines, gathering for numerous reunions over the years. Other long-term friends were members of "Deutsche Freunde," a social club Mary co-founded to practice speaking German.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband, Melvin Barry. She is survived by her brother Richard Paulsteiner, of Northglenn, Colorado; brother- and sister-in-law Paul and Bev Barry, of Wasilla; sons Ronald Barry (Sarah Garland), of Fairbanks, and Richard Barry (Glenn Rice), of Davis, California; grandchildren Eli Barry-Garland (Alana Vilagi), of Fairbanks, and Maura Barry-Garland, of Somerville, Massachusetts; and numerous nieces, nephews and their children.
A funeral mass will be held at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Palmer on Tuesday July 7 at 6:30 p.m. In order to keep Mary's friends and family safe in these unprecedented times, the service will be livestreamed on the church's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PalmersPatron.