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Mary M. Perry
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Obituary for Mary M. Perry

Mary Margaret Perry of Oshkosh, a registered nurse who spent nearly her entire professional career caring for the elderly at nursing homes in Winnebago County, died on Thursday, August 2, at Evergreen Retirement Community (where she had worked for 15 years until she retired in 2011). She was surrounded by her family with her favorite artist Elvis playing in the background. She was 72.

Mary was born to be a nurse and a loyal caring friend. On April 11, 1946, she was born in Fond du Lac to Harold Ries, a bookkeeper, and Margaret (Lobby) Ries, a registered nurse. She met her life-long best friend, Judy Pierson, at age 5, when they discovered their backyards touched and they both enjoyed playing with dolls like Saucey Walker. After graduating from St. Mary’s Springs Academy in 1964, she attended Madison General Hospital School of Nursing. Upon graduation in 1967, she sought her destiny out west.

Originally intent on moving to California, she and one of her Madison classmates decided instead to stop in Phoenix, Arizona. There she took a position at local hospital and rented a bohemian apartment in the trendy Park Thomas neighborhood. On the ides of May 1970, she swam across the community pool and met Edwin William Perry, formerly of Wyandotte, Michigan, and a U.S. Air Force veteran who had served in South East Asia. On their first date they saw the movie M.A.S.H. Their courtship was swift and intense; he proposed on September 4, 1970, and they were married on January 16, 1971, at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Phoenix. Edwin remarked several times to his friends and family for the next four decades, “Mary is the love of my life.”

Mary could not get California out her mind. Shortly after the wedding they moved to San Diego, where she worked day shifts at Mercy Hospital downtown and Edwin sold insurance for Western Southern. There they welcomed the birth of their daughter, Jennifer Marie, on December 28, 1972.

As her parents Harold and Margaret advanced in age and retired, Mary and Edwin decided to relocate to Wisconsin. In June 1973 they loaded all their possessions into an 18-foot U-Haul with neither air-conditioning nor a functional car seat, spent the next the four days travelling across the country, and settled in Oshkosh. Edwin found work at Universal Foundry Company; Mary stayed home and prepared for the arrival of their son, Edwin Anton, on September 24, 1974. A few months earlier they had purchased their first home on Saratoga Avenue for $16,000.

It was on Saratoga that Mary’s love for gardening began to flourish. She partitioned a section of the backyard for her first plot that summer in 1974. For the next 42 years, she would plant kohlrabi, beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and radishes. She took a particular interest in zucchini, which she learned to use to make a variety of breads and casseroles, and in rhubarb, which she would use to make her legendary strawberry rhubarb pie. At their home on Jefferson Avenue in Omro from 1981-1993 and on Greenfield Trail in Oshkosh from 1993 onward, Mary always had a large vegetable garden and flowerbeds surrounding the property.

After her children had grown and moved out of the house, and Edwin was working nights and some weekends at Bemis Packaging, she took up quilting to pass the time. It became her favorite hobby and one that would be cruelly taken from her after she began to be symptomatic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“ALS”) in the spring of 2017. Her first quilt was of sky blue, white, and navy in LeMoyne Star blocks. She made 12 more full-size quilts—including one for each of her 7 grandchildren—and numerous wall hangings. She joined the Quilt Essentials Group, with its headquarters on South Washburn Street in Oshkosh. After retiring as an infection control nurse from Evergreen Retirement Community in 2011, she would spend many Friday mornings there working on quilt patterns and sharing ideas with her friends. Mary also had an interest in sewing, which she had learned from her mother as a child. Long before American Girl franchised the idea of buying matching outfits for girls and their dolls, Mary created her own designs and fashioned them into multiple series for herself, daughter Jennifer and her dolls.

Mary and Edwin loved to travel and the entertainment of Las Vegas. They travelled to Hawaii and Mexico, cruised the Caribbean, and visited a majority of the continental United States. No matter where she went, Mary often sought out the local quilting and sewing stores to discover new ideas and share her joy with others.

Mary is survived by her loving husband, Edwin; children: Jennifer (Jason) Buttke and Edwin (Kolleena) Perry and had 7 grandchildren: Ethan, Merrick (a special angel), Amelia, Helena, and Cole Buttke and Sophia and Alexander Perry; a sister-in-law, Katherine Ries; a brother-in-law, Adam Perry; childhood friend and best friend, Judy, and special friend, Irene.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Harold and Margaret; father and mother-in-law, Edwin and Helen Perry; a brother, Richard Ries; and her beloved Shih Tzu, Chewie.

A funeral mass will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 9, 2018, at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church, 830 S. Westhaven Drive, Oshkosh, with Fr. Tom Long officiating. Visitation will be at the church from 3 p.m. until the time of the Mass. Mary requested that memorials in lieu of or in addition to flowers be donated to the ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter, 3333 N. Mayfair Rd. #104, Wauwatosa, WI 53222.

Mary’s family would like to recognize and thank the staff of Affinity Hospice and at Evergreen Retirement Community for their kind and compassionate care of Mary, and to the ALS Support Group for their information and assistance. Finally, a special a thank you to Mary’s husband of 47 years, Edwin, for being her faithful, attentive caregiver and partner.

Heaven has never seen such beautifully sewn quilts; no buttons will be loose or holes not patched; there will be gardens full of vegetables. Mary is now free to quilt, sew, and garden; this time without the bounds of physical limitation and only the wisdom and muse of angels to guide her for an eternity.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Mary M. Perry, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church

830 S. Westhaven Drive
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54904

Mass of Christian Burial




5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church

830 S. Westhaven Drive
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54904

Memorial Contribution

ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter

3333 N. Mayfair Rd #104
Wauwatosa, WI 53222

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