Mary Ellen Steussy Shanahan, 1937 – 2016

Mary and Larry undated

My aunt, Mary Ellen Steussy Shanahan, passed away today at the age of 79. She was an English professor, married to Larry Shanahan, another English professor. She had a wit, a tongue, an education and a taste for the good life.

Wedding_1965Her Official Obituary: Mary Steussy Shanahan, born January 30, 1937, passed away on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in New Glarus, Wisconsin after a brief illness. She was the daughter of Edwin and Helen Freitag Steussy and was predeceased by two brothers, Robin and Calvin Steussy. Mary is survived by her husband Lawrence Shanahan. She was born in Madison, Wisconsin, attended West High School, and graduated with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After she completed her Ph.D., she taught at Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln, Nebraska and Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. After retirement, she taught for more than 10 years at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. Mary is survived by a large loving family of cousins, nieces, and nephews and an even larger family of students whose lives were so enriched by Mary’s gift of teaching. Mary’s two passions in life were teaching and beauty and she leaves a rich legacy of each.

Mary married Larry in 1965 in Monticello, Wisconsin at her grandfather’s stately rural home. Larry was her companion and her muse, always present and always devoted, for the past fifty-one years.

I’ve known Aunt Mary all my life. I remember her brief visits to my childhood home in Indiana, as well as our many visits to her in Wisconsin. She introduced me to good cheese, wry conversation and martinis.

She taught me cocktail party banter and etiquette. Her wry sense of humor and education mixed seamlessly. This was also true in her everyday life, as she had a cat named Fitzgerald and a car named Lord Byron. I will miss her.

With Mary’s passing, a generation of Steussy’s have left us. The void they leave behind, Robin, Cal and Mary, is vast and deep.



In an undated photo, Mary Shanahan and her husband, Larry.


Aunt Mary and Uncle Larry entertaining in their opulent private library, New Glarus.

Aunt Mary and Uncle Larry entertaining in their opulent private library, New Glarus. Every well-read person yearns to have a glass-and-wood library with sweeping pastoral views like this for entertaining, conversation and contemplation.


1943 photo of Calvin, Edwin, Helen, Robin and Mary Steussy. Nakoma Road house in background. Upper right window was Calvin's bedroom.

1942 photo of Calvin, Edwin, Helen, Robin and Mary Steussy. The Miami Pass house is in the background. Mary herself called this photo iconic, where she wore a little dark blue sailor suit in counterpoint to her older brothers’ military uniforms.



Mary with her family in May 1942. Behind her are her brothers Calvin (19) and Robin (21). Seated beside her are her father, Edwin, and mother, Helen.



Mary in an undated photo. Probably around 1950.



Mary in an undated photo. Probably around 1940.

3 Responses to “Mary Ellen Steussy Shanahan, 1937 – 2016”

  1. Well done.. in honor of your Aunt. May God bless, give you peace and a wonderful life time full of memories. I really enjoyed seeing these wonderful pictures. Thank You for Sharing.

  2. Thank you for posting these pictures and commentary. I have sent the link to interested colleagues. Mary was a dear and cherished friend for decades. My husband, Art, and I always appreciated her generous hospitality, marvelous wit, weekend salons, occasional adventures, and academic collegiality. We will miss her: we will continue to reminisce about the good times, and continue to share these memories with friends and colleagues.

  3. Connie Maerz says:

    I will miss Mary and our plans to make her flowers gardens beautiful each year. My last conversation with her was about planting a pink Azela. I explained that they didn’t grow well in our zone but she insisted. Today we were there to care for the gardens and I had to laugh a bit when I saw that pink Azela blooming and happy. I think Mary did that just to prove me wrong. I wish I had known her a long time ago.

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