Mary Alice Valentine

  • Born: May 25, 1920
  • Died: February 23, 2019
  • Location: Austin, Texas

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
Tel. (512) 452-8811

Tribute & Message From The Family

Mary Alice Valentine, just shy of 99 years old, passed away on February 23, 2019, after a long and full life. She was born May 25, 1920, to Ruth Ryerson and Lt. Colonel Frederick Wells Gilchrist in Milwaukee, WI. Shortly after, her family moved to Buffalo, NY, where her father worked as an electrical engineer for Cutler-Hammer.

She and her younger sister Carol had a rather idyllic childhood. Mary Alice recalled summers spent on her maternal grandparents' farm in Ohio, where multiple sets of cousins ran barefoot outdoors, picked peas and blueberries, and helped churn butter. The Ryersons grew everything they ate. Our mother never forgot the taste of freshly picked vegetables and milk straight from the cow and became an early locavore.

After graduating from Kenmore High School, where she was vice-president of her senior class, Mary Alice went to Ohio State University. She was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and majored in French and English. She graduated in May 1942, not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when life changed drastically for everyone. Her father, who served in France during World War I, was called back into the Army in 1942 and assigned to Camp Wallace, near Galveston, TX.

Mary Alice, who had never been south of the Ohio River or west of the Mississippi, drove with her parents and her baby sister Betsy Ruth ("Bettina") through the southern states to the damp Texas coast. After living through fierce Buffalo blizzards and icy streets, she was enchanted with the palm trees, oleanders and sandy beaches and never went back to western New York.

She got a job on the Army post, where she worked in the Motor Pool office. She told stories of the motley crew of people who were thrown together from faraway places and never saw each other again after the war. She described life at Camp Wallace at that time as a "combination of South Pacific, Catch-22 and Casablanca."

At Camp Wallace, she met Jimmy Valentine, a Texan known for his beautiful voice who sang with Big Band leader Jimmy Dorsey and later with the Will Bradley/Ray McKinley Orchestra. Jim was in charge of entertainment at the base and sang with the Camp band at dances. Mary Alice and Jim soon fell for one another. They were married in 1943, when Jim was in Officer Training School in Lexington, VA, and eventually had three children.

In 1954, they came to Austin, where Jim grew up. Back then, Austin was a sleepy town of 150,000. Wherever you went, you were likely to run into people you knew. One day, Mary Alice and Jim ran into an old college buddy of Jim's, David Carson, and his wife Barbara at Barton's Springs. Barbara Carson, a former soloist with the New York City Ballet, was just starting a ballet company.

Mary Alice, who had once dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer but never did, went to the first meetings of the Austin Ballet Society and put Carson in touch with her friend Kathleen Gee, who designed costumes and sets for the group's first performances in the late 1950s. Later, Mary Alice served on the Board of Trustees at Austin Ballet Theatre under Stanley Hall (both forerunners of Ballet Austin) and was the school administrator in the 1970s and early '80s.

Mary Alice volunteered in a number of artistic and nonprofit organizations over the decades. She was a board member of the Zachary Scott Theatre, served as president of the Friends of the Austin Public Library, and volunteered at the Next-to-New Shop of St. David's Church.

Mary Alice had a close-knit group of friends who kept a book club going for more than 60 years, until the remaining few could no longer get around. She read the Austin-American Statesman and The New York Times and did the Times crossword puzzle every day until her eyes gave out.

Mary Alice was a strong, determined woman with a kind heart who always saw the best in everyone and seemed to have no fear. She was an ardent Democrat.

Above all, Mary Alice loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart, and they adored her. She had a gift for connecting with small children. She spent many an hour reading children's books to them, from Grimm's fairy tales to Winnie the Pooh. At family gatherings, she would be on the floor, playing horses or having tea parties with dolls, while the "grown-ups" talked among themselves.

Mary Alice was extremely close to both her sisters, and when together they seemed to never stop laughing. The three were so playful and witty that all of us loved being around them.

Mary Alice was preceded in death by her husband James Phillip Valentine and sister Carol Gilchrist Chamberlin. She is survived by sister Bettina Hansford and husband David of Indianapolis, IN; her three children, Julie Valentine (son-in-law Steve Hollahan), James (daughter-in-law Susan Valentine), and Leslie Valentine (son-in-law Les Bourne), all of Austin; four granddaughters (Julie Catherine Puentes, Emily Luce, Katherine Valentine, and Gabriela Bourne), three great-grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.

We wish to thank the kind caregivers from Austin Home Care Assistance, especially Grace Deanda and Jin Woo, who enabled her to live with her daughter Leslie until last September. Also, we want to thank the wonderful staff at Grace House, who took such fine care of her in the last few months of her life, including Jamie Ahrlett-Boyd, Teresa Brashear, Uzziah Rodriguez, Sheila Irvin, Octavia Wade, Leticia Middleton and Patricia Urrabaz.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Mary Alice's name to HorseLink, Caritas of Austin, Austin Wildlife Rescue or Austin Humane Society. The family will have a private graveside service with a celebration of her life at a later date.

Condolence & Memory Journal

Years ago, I met Mary Alice...She and her sisters, Carol and Betsy Ruth took a road trip with a stop in Norwalk, Ohio, where they visited their cousin, Margaret Ryerson Skinn. I am Margaret's daughter and just happened to be visiting Mom at the time. Am finishing writing memories I have of the Ryerson family and and that includes wonderful memories Mom had of summers with visiting cousins, sleeping on the porch, and playing croquet late into the night. Finding this obituary just by chance sent shivers up my spine. As with my Mom, I've very sure that wonderful memories will live on.

Posted by Patricia Skinn Warren - Family   June 17, 2020

I am so sorry for your loss our loving God promises to give you the strength to cope with the pain of your loss. He also promises to hold your hand every step of the way. Please take comfort that he does care at Isaiah 63:9 and Jeremiah 29:11,12.

Posted by A friend   March 12, 2019

I always enjoy greeting and waiting on your mother at the store. May she rest in peace and may God be with you and your extended family.

Posted by Doris Preston - Austin, TX   March 08, 2019

Mary Alice was a true delight, and I met her through my work at the local public library. After retirement, I would often run into her and her friend Joan at lunch, and we would take a few moments to catch up. She had a great sense of humor, and always made me laugh. The world will be a quieter place without hearing her laugh. After reading about her life, I realized that we even knew some of the same people, a pleasant surprise to me. My condolences to her family.

Posted by Bill Clark - Palm Springs, CA   March 08, 2019

Although I might have met her when her daughter, Julie, and I were in school together, my memory of her is blank. This is a lovely obituary that brings her to life for all of us. Julie, I know you cared lovingly for your mother during her last years and I know that must bring you so much comfort. May she remain forever in your heart and mind.

Posted by Debbie Blandy Rider - Washington, DC - Family Friend   March 04, 2019

Love to all the family at the loss of this beautiful lady!

Posted by Karen Miller - Austin, TX - Friend   March 04, 2019

Julie - John and I were saddened to learn of your mother's recent passing. What a lovely lady she was! Even after a long life, it is still a sad shock when a loved one dies. Your family is in our prayers with our hope that today's grief will soon be supplanted by happy memories of Mary Alice over the years. With deepest sympathy, Jeannine Miller

Posted by Jeannine Miller - AUSTIN, TX - Friend   March 04, 2019

I remember Aunt Mary Alice making fun of my Midwest accent. I failed to point out that that 60 years earlier, she had one too., and no doubt that upon arriving in Austin, she made fun of strong southern drawls!

Posted by David Chamberlin - Huntley, IL - Family   March 03, 2019

What a beautiful smart caring lady. I really enjoyed volunteering with her at Next-To-New. She was a real asset to the shop and lots of fun. Rest In Peace friend.

Posted by Pam O'Conner - Austin, TX - Friend   March 03, 2019

Mary Alice was the best raconteur. Her voice is in my head from my childhood. She was my mom's best friend and they were hilarious together.
Sending you all a warm embrace,

Posted by Diane Green - Tiburon - Friend   March 03, 2019

I remember Mary Alice very well. She and my mom, Mary Alice Ziegler not only shared the same first name but they shared a friendship as well when they were involved with Austin Ballet Theatre. I remember the two of them laughing often and enjoying the hard work they did taking care of the ballet company. Mary Alice V. had such a sweet, compassionate and friendly disposition that she was always a pleasure to be around. I danced with the company, and I must have spent a thousand hours in her presence, but I can't ever remember her being unkind to anyone. If we had more people like her in the world today it would be a much better place.

Posted by Mary Claire Ziegler Gerwels - Austin, TX - Friend   March 03, 2019

Family Album