Mary Ellen Brandell
Oct. 12, 1933-Sept. 24, 2010
Mary Ellen Brandell died from leukemia at her Mt. Pleasant home, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, surrounded by her children. She was 76 years old.
Her husband Dick Brandell, her brother Tom Sweeney, and her parents Joseph and Elizabeth Sweeney preceded her.
Charles R. Lux Family Funeral Home, 2300 S. Lincoln Road, will hold visitations on Monday, Sept. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 28, from 2 to 8 pm. Mary Ellen's funeral Mass will be celebrated at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, with the Most Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, presiding.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to two funds Mary Ellen established at the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation to continue her legacy: the "Dick and Mary Ellen Brandell Family Hospice House Fund" and the "Mary Ellen Brandell Access To Recreation Fund."
Mary Ellen touched the lives of thousands of people, but few knew this remarkable woman in her many incarnations.
Mary Ellen was the oldest of five children, but many assumed she was the youngest, not from mere appearance but from the vitality that flowed from her whenever she met you, or whenever she assumed a new civic duty.
She served as Vice-Mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Dean and Vice-Provost of Central Michigan University, and member or director of a score of committees and charities, most recently with the Isabella County Sesquicentennial Committee, Woodland Hospice, Access to Recreation, and a key contributor to the Elizabeth Hursch Story, the history of the first permanent settler in Mt. Pleasant.
As the inspiration behind many local service projects over the last four decades including the Volunteer Center at CMU and a founding gubernatorial appointee of the Michigan Community Service Commission, Mt. Pleasant honored her as a Citizen of the Year. She made her last public appearance at a Rotary Club luncheon meeting several weeks ago, in keeping with her commitment to community service.
While she devoted herself to local causes, the world also claimed her as a citizen. She traveled to China and Japan, Germany and France, Ireland and Italy, Slovakia and the Netherlands, and places in between. Both the City of Mt. Pleasant and CMU engaged her to serve as their ambassador to sister cities and university affiliates overseas. Friends she made in Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world often visited her in Mt. Pleasant.
Mary Ellen was a visionary without limits. After the birth of the seventh of her extraordinary children – daughters Mary Elizabeth Curtiss, Anne Marie Drolet, Kathleen Mumford, and Carol O'Connell, and sons Joseph, Richard and James Francis – she followed the dreams her talents demanded. She returned to school and attained her masters, specialist and doctorate degrees, then served as an administrator and professor at CMU for nearly forty years.
Additionally, she and her husband Dick started and managed Allied Health Services, a local communication disorders therapy practice.
Mary Ellen revered her ancestors and kept memories of them alive for her descendants, but she also lived for tomorrow. Before her leukemia became critical, she had outlined a new book she planned to write and made arrangements for her next trip to Germany, her mother's homeland to see her relatives once again.
She enjoyed the moment – a grandchild's high school graduation, a bargain at an outlet mall, a well-written novel, the acquisition of a special item for one of her many collections, or a laugh, often at herself. She enjoyed the almost daily delight of a letter or visit from a school principal or teacher among the hundreds of former students she had mentored.
Businesswoman, licensed speech therapist, teacher, spiritual leader, civic leader, political activist – these and other titles would also accurately describe her. But she would identify herself first as a mother and grandmother, though she was foremost a devoted wife, who selflessly cared for her husband at home for many years as his health declined prior to his death in 2004.
A large extended family adored her as their matriarch, its center of gravity. And as much as her friends and colleagues will grieve the loss of Mary Ellen, to her family she is irreplaceable.
Each holiday her seven children, fifteen grandchildren, her brothers Pat, Joe and Jim and their families, and other relatives would meet at Mary Ellen and Dick Brandell's home on Chippewa Street. When it became clear that Mary Ellen would not survive her cancer, one of her grandchildren asked, "What will happen to Christmas?"
To send a condolence to the family or share a story, please visit www.charlesrlux.com
Published by Morning Sun from Sep. 26 to Sep. 28, 2010.