By Sharon H.
For more than 50 years Mary Munson has been a valued member of the Angell Tea Group, as well as a “Neighbor” to many, many people from around the world. Wherever Mary went she made friends and usually invited them to visit her and her husband Fred at their farmhouse in the country. Each year the members of the Angell Tea Group looked forward to the first week of May when we would have our annual potluck luncheon at Mary’s. Her rhubarb cake is part of the tradition, and after lunch we’d go for a walk in their woods to enjoy the carpet of wildflowers. Sadly, Mary passed away on October 15 at age 94 resulting from a fall in her kitchen.
Angell Tea Group Potluck at Mary's house 2019
Mary's famous rhubarb cake
May W. and Mary coming back from a walk in the woods
Mary was born in Oklahoma, and after graduating from college won a Danforth Fellowship at Cornell University where she met her future husband, Fred. He “knew immediately that she was the girl he wanted to marry.” When Fred was offered a job in Calcutta India, Mary decided he was the one, and off they went to India where they were married in 1953, and where their daughter was born. That began Mary’s lifelong love affair with India, and an extended family of ophthalmologists. For nearly forty years Mary and Fred traveled to India to assist their wonderful friends at the Aravind Eye Hospital whose mission is to eliminate blindness.
Mary and her best friend Ann Staiger, are IN “Founding Mothers” and have been members of our Angell Tea Group for well over 50 years. They met even before coming to Ann Arbor! Mary and Ann became best friends when their husbands were in graduate school at MIT. For a few years, they led separate paths but their friendship continued, and after a few years, both families found themselves in Ann Arbor. Ann and Mary have been the anchors of the Angell Tea Group since that time. And for 26 of those years Mary’s mother “Granny” was a member of the Angell Tea Group as well.
Saying “Goodbye” to Miyoko Bassett when she moved in 2005
Mary and Ann’s roaring laughter is part of their legacy in the Angell Tea Group. Mary and Ann each are known to have a great sense of humor, and when the two of them were together, there was always lots of laughing, big laughing, sometimes to tears. Ann would tell a joke, and Mary would throw back her head and laugh loud and long, and then retell the joke, and laugh some more. They were a great comedy team. Mary also loved practical jokes and once showed us her famous dribble glass, and a small box of rubber chocolates. She was always willing to laugh at herself as well.
And a sense of true friendship is also their legacy. Mary made friends wherever she went, on trains, in the grocery store, everywhere. Mary was always doing something kind for someone. She especially loved to invite international acquaintances to her home, knowing how much that could mean to someone from abroad. So many, many international women and their families received warm invitations to the Munsons’ farmhouse! Tea on the porch with Mary was a special and memorable treat.
Thanks to Mary and Ann, the Angell Tea Group is more than a membership organization. It is a special group of lifelong friends, even family. The members of the Angell Tea Group as well as other International Neighbors and friends gathered in Mary’s honor at her Memorial October 29. Even after her death, Mary was creating community. It was there we met another Founding Mother, Frankie Simonds, who just celebrated her 100th birthday. Frankie lamented that her tea group no longer existed and she missed it. We invited her to join our Angell Tea Group, and she enthusiastically accepted!
Celebrating Mary’s 90th Birthday with a Surprise Party at International Day 2018