Mary Alice Gordon

Mary Alice Gordon, 85, died on November 29th, 2019. She traveled from Lawrence, KS to Fort Collins, CO with her daughter that day, arriving in time to watch her grandson-in-law bake a pie for a Saturday Thanksgiving Feast. Mary experienced a stroke a few hours later, and passed peacefully that night, surrounded by her family.

Mary, known to her grandkids (both biological and not) as “Gamby,” was born to Leslie and Florence Demeritt on November 12, 1934, in Lawrence, KS. She lived in a farmhouse that didn’t have running water or electricity until she was 14 years old. Growing up, she was athletic and was a softball pitcher for the town of Clinton and eventually played basketball while at University of Kansas. In 1955, she married Charles Gordon, principal of then-known Central Junior High, gaining two young step-daughters, Kathy and Mary. She had her daughter, Lori, in 1957. She and Charles divorced in 1962, though she maintained close relationships with her step-daughters throughout her life. Aside from 4 years spent in California, she spent her entire life in Lawrence, KS.

Mary graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S in Physical Education and taught at Central Junior High and Haskell University and later obtained an M.S. in Education from KU. She earned certification in Special Education for Visual Impairment from the University of Northern Colorado. She became a teacher for blind and visually impaired students of the Lawrence Public School District, working in multiple schools and teaching summer school for the blind from her own home. Being a student of Mary Gordon’s didn’t end with graduation, as she taught most of her students from pre-school through adulthood. Her kids learned how to be successful in every subject they took and every interest they had, while also absorbing extensive life skills along the way. She began coordinating with the BOLD program (Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) for blind and visually impaired individuals. For 20 consecutive years, she raised funds from various community groups to make these ski trips to Aspen by school bus a reality. They included students from both Kansas and Missouri school districts.

While working as a full-time teacher, she also became the President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation for Blind and Visually Impaired, as well as President for the Lawrence Teacher’s Association. She was a member of the Clinton Lake Historical Society, Phi Delta Kappa, Delta Kappa Gamma, the Lawrence Education Association, Mortar Board Alumna, Daughters of American Revolution, K-NEA, and life member of NEA. In 1988, she received the Kansas Special Educator of the Year Award. In 1993, she earned the Kansas Master Teacher Award from Emporia State University, as well as the Outstanding Educators Award from the University of Kansas. In 2003, she was inducted into the Lawrence High School Hall of Honor (She’d be the first to tell you she was inducted in 2003 along with Danny Manning).

Following her retirement in 1999, Mary continued to dedicate her life to serve others. She became a director of the Lawrence Lions Club, an international organization dedicated to bettering the lives of blind and visually impaired individuals through community outreach. She worked as a volunteer for Lawrence Memorial Hospital and was previously on the board for the Visiting Nurses Association of Lawrence. In an unofficial capacity, she dedicated her efforts in fundraising and providing for the needs of her former students. Being a student of Mary Gordon meant being her student for life.

Mary was an adoptive mother and grandmother to many. She loved her Jayhawks, and proudly showed it with a wardrobe that was almost completely red and royal blue. She couldn’t go to a restaurant without seeing an old friend, and almost just as frequently, making a new one. She was often late, but it was usually because she was chatting with an old student on the phone or filling her bird feeder at the last minute. She planted her garden to be a perfect habitat for monarch butterflies. Although Mary spent her whole life in Lawrence, KS, she loved exploring new places and cultures, including China, Egypt, Turkey, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Greece, and even above the Arctic Circle. She loved her family, friends and the Lawrence community with all of her heart. She was always genuinely happy to see you and you felt loved when you were with her. She would’ve been glad to know that she went quickly, without a fuss, and with her loved ones holding her.

Mary was predeceased by her parents Leslie and Florence Demeritt, her brother Leslie “Laddie” Demeritt, and brother-in-law Robert “Bob” Parker. She is survived by her daughter Lori Tilson and son-in-law Wayne Tilson, step-daughter and son-in-law Mary and Dale Mitchell, step-daughter Kathy Gordon, grandchildren Joe Heacock, Megan Gleeson (husband Sam), Scott Mitchell (wife Lorena) and Kristen Hase (husband Chris), and sister Martha Parker. She also leaves 5 great-grandchildren (Juli, Ian, Ava, Alex, and Noah), and many nieces and nephews.

A visitation will be held from 5:00-7:00pm Thursday, December 5th at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. On Friday, December 6th, a brief graveside service will be held at 11:30am at Clinton Cemetery, followed by a Celebration of Life service at 3:00pm at the Lawrence First Presbyterian Church with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Lions Club of Lawrence Foundation in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. On the memo line, please write “Mary Gordon Fund.” Donations to this fund will be used for charitable purposes to continue Mary Gordon’s legacy of community support.

Messages & Condolences

From Betty Currie...

Lori & Family, I am sad to hear about the passing of Mary. She was a delight throughout my career @ LHS. I always had her come in to speak to my Parenting classes when we studied Children with Disabilities. She would bring in all her adaptive equipment as well as lessons in braille for the students to see. She was an awesome teacher and highly respected. I later would see her at LHM at the reception center and she would greet everyone with a smile and engage in encouraging conversation. She was one of a kind and her kindred spirit will endure forever as she touched so many lives. May God wrap his loving arms around you as you grieve the loss of Mary in your lives. She lived life to the fullest. Peace and Hugs to you during this difficult time. Betty Currie

From Rebecca (Ledom) Allen...

Mrs. Gordon was my kindergarten teacher at New York School in 1963. I never saw her out and about as an adult, that she didn’t remember me after all those years. Her work with the blind children at Cordley Elementary blessed our family too. Rest in Peace sweet Mary Gordon. Your life was a gift to many~

From Kate Baker...

Lori, your mom was such a unique person, one of a kind, always thinking outside the box to find ways to adapt and adjust schoolwork for her students and always available to the rest of us who were fortunate to teach with her at Cordley so many years ago. She always nudged me to be a better teacher. I loved sharing students. It was a win win. Our staff worked so well together back then, and we also celebrated together. Christmas was a big one; pot luck, caroling all over town and then our crazy white elephant gift exchange. Still have mine. She has left an extensive legacy. I’ve passed on so much of what I learned from your mom to my student teachers and other staff members i’ve Work d with for many years. Students learned so much, too. Your mom didn’t give up, and her perseverance paid off in so many ways. You also have to know how she loved you and her grandchildren. She was so proud. We always talked about family when we wrote or spoke on the phone. I will miss her, and I’m sure you will too. Holding you in my heart and prayers.

From Eilene Lawrence...

Lori I’m sorry for you loss, but what a Mom! She did so much good for several of my students and was a joy to work with. Her smile could light up a room. Hold those memories.

From Lucy Remple McAllister...

Mary Gordon was a peer of my mother, Mariana Remple. Mary made a special effort to comfort me upon the unexpected death of my mom and I maintained a new adult friendship with Mary throughout the later years that I was in Lawrence. She blessed many with her ability to retain stories and foster friendships was legendary. Condolences to the family and friends who relied upon her.

From Debra Shirar and Sterling Longfellow...

I remember Mary and her mother visiting my dad’s parents this time of year. I admired her patience and her awesomeness with her students. It’s too bad society and school doesn’t have more individuals like Mary. We wouldn’t have so much negativity in the world. Her students were certainly the positive spot in the Lawrence school system while they had her. Everyone she came in contact with is a better person for the attention she gave them.
For all of you family members left behind, when you start to feel sad think of how proud you can be to have had such a talented awesome lady in your family. I am very proud to say I knew and loved Mary Gordon as a friend and fellow teacher. God bless all of you.

From Bitsey Patton...

Mary used to bring her students to the KU Museum of Natural History when I worked in Public Education there. She changed the course of some of these students’ lives, and was an inspiration to everyone who knew her.

From Jennifer Weber...

She was a mentor for me as a KU student, and professionally as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired.
She will be missed.

From Muriel Frei ( for thé old BOLD program)...

So sorry Lori , family and friends.. Mary and the Kansas Kids, and yes the Lawrence school bus was always such a pleasure seeing them arriving in the Buttermilk parking lot. I had the privilege knowing Mary during her trips to Aspen, what a Lady, what a * trooper* ,what an angel !! Mary and her team ,the children and all the helpers gave us joy,fun and such an exemple of positive accomplishment for a whole week ,and yes for life . Tears are coming to my eyes when I remember some evening with so much laughing, good food and every one helping each other.so many memories Mary , we still have , pictures and yes the last T shirt you brought us the last year….( still wearing it gardening ) and I will never forget your trip on a snowmobile!!!!!
Merci Mary, an angel you have been for a lot of us in Aspen…
And thank you Lori for always helping the Aspen Expedition and Waine to drive the famous bus safely to Colorado.
A other shiny star in our sky.

From Belinda Rehmer...

Oh Lori, my heart is with you! I read this right before drifting off to sleep last night and my night was filled with memories! Sweetness surrounding them all. And I know my mom was right in front Of the multitudes welcoming her into her heavenly home! God’s blessings on you my friend! I’ll see you on Friday.

From Tamara Drake...

What a joy it was, to read more about your mother’s amazing life!! Thank you for sharing!! Thinking of you during this chapter of change, and praying you’ll find continued joy and laughter in all the wonderful memories.

From Patty Atkinson Supancic...

Mary was my 7th grade PE teacher. Through the years we saw each other out and about, last time at the fair 4H lunch counter. Wonderful lady.

From Carolyn Welch...

Lori, Joe, Megan, Sam and Wayne, our deepest condolences to you. Mary was truly a special person – kind, wise, inspiring, fun. What a beautiful, meaningful life she lived. Much love to you all.

From Reece Wiley...

The loss of one of the good ones from LHS faculty is always hard to comprehend. However, Mary’s wonderful daughter, Lori, it a living testament to Mary’s life.

From Rod & Diana Pringle...

sad to hear about Mary, what a wonderful and kind person. GOD bless all the family.

From Karen Walker (knepp)...

💔 so sorry to hear she was such a special person. She will be missed severely. Prayers for family.

From Vicky Carlson...

Lori, Joe, Megan and family, I’m so very sorry to hear of Marys passing. She was so kind and always smiling. I know she touched Nicholas in a way only a grandma can, so grateful for her. She will be missed.

From Patty Villanueva...

Lori,
So very sorry.. Your mother was one of a kind. I have missed seeing her at LMH and at HyVee. Her and I had some nice visits during her last hospitalization. Always find comfort in all your memories of a great mother.

From Sandy Nease...

Mary will be remembered by all who knew her!!! She didn’t know the word “no” giving of her self unselfishly over and over!!!

From Rosey king...

Mary was a wonderful friend, an exemplary teacher, I will never forget our trip to Dallas at an NEA convention. They “broke the mold” after she was born. She will be truly missed!

From Robert L. Parker...

Auntie May, thank you for being you!

From Pat Lechtenberg...

Lori,
So sorry for your loss.

From Lloyd Kirk...

To Lori and family, so sorry to hear this news about your Mom. She was wonderfully caring and interested to know how she could help in any situation. When I think of the people who represent the best of the Lawrence community, she tops the list. Months ago in the days preceeding my mother’s passing, Mary was there repeatedly to visit her and share countless stories of growing up west of town and walking to and from that one room schoolhouse together. I’ll miss her good cheer and her devotion to making this world a better place…one changed life at a time. My thoughts and prayers to all of you — very truly.

From Rick McCaffrey...

Mary Alice “her Majesty” will be missed. She has impacted so many lives in a such positive way. Her legacy lives in on in all of her BOLD students.

From Rebecca D. McMillen...

Mary was my phy. ed teacher in 7th grade. She never forgot her students and we often visited when I would see her in Lawrence. I often saw her at the hospital too where she volunteered. We also enjoyed hearing her talk about one room schoolhouse days at the Clinton Museum’s One room Schoolhouse program recently She was a treasure and loved by many. She will be missed but remembered.

From Julie Boyle...

Mary lived a life that mattered through selfless dedication to helping others. May her family be comforted by many happy memories.

From Tolly and Wayne Wildcat...

We will miss you Mary. You still live through the students you taught and loved. We know one of them who owns a great “Modern Bed & Breakfast” in Houston Tx. And you still live in “Central Time,” the large painting at Central/Liberty Memorial that Wayne Wildcat and students from Central painted. (You stand at the top left.) So glad we knew you, (and through you met your sister), Martha Parker and the Underground Railroad! We will miss you. love to your family.

From Kathy Fode...

Oh Lori I am so sorry to learn of your mom’s passing. She was an extraordinary lady. She will be greatly missed. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

From Cindy Gress...

My thoughts and prayers with you and your family Lori. She leaves quite a legacy of how kind and caring she was to all. Such great memories as a Sunset family before witnessing her work in 497.

From Janet Janson Kelly...

Mary Gordon was a true lifelong learner. I am honored to have known her. RIP dear lady

From Karen (Hoyer) Seutter...

It was my good fortune to work with Mary as a Paraprofessional for the Visually Impaired in the Lawrence Public Schools, and I can vouch for all the things people say about her commitment to her kids, whether they were former or current students. I’ve never known anyone to give themselves so wholeheartedly to others as she did. She seemed to have endless energy and a heart bigger than all outdoors. How glad I am to have had a few years to share her enthusiasm and love. Even though she was my supervisor, she always treated me as an equal and never failed to express appreciation. She was a blessing to more people than you will ever know. I pray the Lord will comfort your hearts in your great loss.

From Becky Mondi...

Mary was a consummate gem of humanity. She will be sorely missed.

From MIKE AND ROSEMARY...

What a woman…may she rest in peace…Mike Hadl

From Derek & Brenda Welsh...

So sorry to hear of Mary’s passing. She was a friend to everyone.

From Mark & Shanon Marks...

What a wonderful lady. I never saw anything but a smile on her face and a kind word. Lori, Meagan, and Martha you are in our thoughts and prayers as well as those who were her family. We will miss her so much. Mark and Shanon Marks

From Vicki Goff-Miller...

What a fantastic lady and your right she always made you feel very important talking to her. We thought very highly of your Mother and she will be deeply missed by many.
Sincerely
Vicki Goff-Miller & Family

From Sharilyn Wells...

Great lady

From Sue Davis McDaniel...

So deeply sorry to hear of your loss, she was such a lovely person and a good friend to my mom! Hugs and prayers to all of you.

From Angie Yewell...

So sorry to see this. I enjoyed having lunch with Mary every Friday as a volunteer at LMH. Such a happy, positive, and lovely lady with a great sense of humor!

From Karen Lyerla...

Another wonderful Lawrence teacher walks beside us crossing her bridge. True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross. Having facilitated their crossing, she joyfully encourages, suggests and empowers them to create their own bridges. Mary Gordon was one such truly dedicated educator and community activist. I feel privileged to have known her during her time at USD 497 as well as Lawrence high school among others . Her many kindnesses and influence over the years to her students, parents, teachers and so many others in the Lawrence community will continue on as they continue to pay forward all the loving care they received from Mary. Thank you Mary for your friendship, being such a dear colleague and your never ending support. With your help I will encourage and endeavor to continue building our bridges.

From Mary Beasley...

Lori and family, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. She was a special person and I enjoyed getting a chance to teach with her years ago at Cordley. She will be missed!

From Sheryl Henry...

I was so sorry to read about your mom’s passing. She was a very special lady that touched so many people.

From Beth Reynolds...

Lori was so surprise of the death of your mother Mary, I had talked to her a few weeks ago on the phone. She always talk to me as if I was part of her family. DAR has lost a great member,

From Adrian & Debbie Fishburn...

Lori, Thinking of you and hope you are doing okay. Your Mom was such a sweet lady.

From Brenda Hardtarfer...

Lori, so very sorry to hear of Mary’s passing. Such a wonderful lady, and always smiling. Prayers and hugs to you and your family.

From DeAnne Rosen...

Mary Gordon was a wonderful person. I will miss her.

From Shirley Shirk Anderson...

Mrs. Gordon was a very special lady. She was my physical education teacher in seventh grade. Many years later she returned to Lawrence and began volunteering at LMH Memorial Hospital now known as LMH Health. As an LMH Volunteer, it has been my pleasure to call my former teacher my friend too. She was loved and will be missed by many. Prayers to Mrs. Gordon’s family.

From Carol Langston...

So sorry for your loss. What a great lady! I enjoyed her at the hospital!

From Carladyne Conyers...

Lori so sorry with the sudden passing of your wonderful Mother. What a blessing she was to so many people. Glad she got to be with family in Colorado.

From Paula Hatcher...

Lori-so saddened to hear of your wonderful Mom’s passing. She did so much for so many, including the many school children she tended. My heart goes out to you and your family.

From Kay Hodge...

Lori: So sorry for your loss. She will be greatly missed by many.

From Renee Holl...

Condolences on the loss of this special lady. She was a jewel!

From Martin Owens...

So sorry to learn of Mary’s demise. We all lost a very special lady.

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