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Mary Alice Valentine

Obituary for Mary Alice Valentine

May 25, 1920 - February 23, 2019
Austin, Texas | Age 98


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.

Private Services

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Suggested Memorial Donations

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

Arrangements By

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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