Mary Kay Sawyer
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Mary Kay Sawyer
Following high school, she headed off to find work in New York City as a waitress in the 1950s. Many times, she recounted her story of persevering to find that first job, and it became her grandchildren's favorite inspirational tale. While in New York, she was suddenly stricken with rheumatoid arthritis and needed to return home to Maine where her mother helped her to regain the ability to walk. She decided to seek work in restaurants in Dexter, first at Carolyn's and then at Agnes Brooks, where she met her husband, Richard Sawyer, a local automobile salesman. They were married August 21, 1962, in Ripley where they made their home for 51 years until Richard passed away in 2013 and she moved to Bishop Hill Apartments in Dexter.
During those years, she was a homemaker and was a member of the Ripley United Methodist Church and the Ripley Christmas Carol Club. She also volunteered at the Dexter Primary School, helping children with reading skills. When her children were in middle school she went to work at Dexter Shoe Company, retiring just before the company was sold.
During her working years, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 58 and, a few years later, a second cancer of the appendix. She never let those illnesses stop her and was determined to keep working through chemotherapy and months of recovery from surgeries. Her two young grandchildren were her reasons for fighting and she made a full recovery from both illnesses. She was very involved in their lives, never missing a school function, music or dance recital, or sporting event. She missed only a few of her granddaughter's basketball games at Bowdoin College, due to a stroke in 2009, and she matter-of-factly told the ER doctor that she could not stay in the hospital because she had a team dinner to attend that night! A few years later, she became very ill with what would eventually be diagnosed as celiac disease, but still insisted on traveling to Ithaca, NY to attend her grandson's college graduation. Those are just two of many examples of her fierce determination and love for her grandchildren. They were the lights of her life, and they called her several times a week up until her passing so that she could remain involved in their daily adventures.
"Nana", as she was called by most of her grandchildren's friends, coaches and teachers, loved to be a part of everything they were involved in. She especially loved the opportunities that opened doors to new experiences, right up until she no longer had the strength to travel a couple of years ago. Her unique wisdom and "Nana-isms" will be remembered with much love and laughter.
Mary Kay is survived by her children and their spouses, Valerie Cote and husband, Richard Shea, of Dexter, and Richard Sawyer Jr. and wife, Deborah, of Dexter, and her children, Adam and Emily Baer, of NH; her grandchildren and their significant others, Sabrina Cote and Matt Fuller of Boston, MA, and Gavin Cote and Brooke Healey of Bristol, CT; her eldest sister, Lucille Gray of Augusta; her brother-in-law, Arnold Sawyer and wife, Glenda, of Gorham; her sister-in-law, Kay (Sawyer) Dunton of Florida; many nieces and nephews, and her Ripley and Bishop Hill friends and neighbors. In addition to her parents and husband, she was predeceased by her siblings and their spouses, Arlene Leavitt, Rita (and John) Tapley, Elizabeth Leavitt, Stanley (and Ruth) Leavitt, Joyce (and Clifton) Page, Beverly (and Percy) Johndro, and Barbara Lemnah; brothers-in-law, Clifton Gray, Maurice Sawyer, Ralph Sawyer, Harold Sawyer and Stanton Sawyer; sisters-in-law, Velma Sawyer and Alta Sawyer; her nephew, Stephen Sawyer; her niece, Lana (Sawyer) Hall; and great-nephew Douglas Mayhew, Jr.
Per her wishes, there will be a private family burial at Ferndale Cemetery, Ripley in the spring. For those who wish, she would be honored by donations in her name to the Dexter Regional High School Sports Boosters, 60 Abbott Hill, Dexter, ME 04930. Cremation arrangements are by Crosby & Neal, Dexter.
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