Mary Ann Adams passed away peacefully the evening of June 19, 2021, to the tune of “Back Home Again in Indiana”. Family was by her side until her last breath. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s had claimed her, even though she fought against it long and hard.
Mary Ann was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, daughter of Lora and John Emil Held, and later adopted by her daddy Phil Wesner. All three were teachers. She grew up in and called home the Indiana towns of Paoli, Winchester, and Bedford. Mary Ann earned her degree from Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music. She was extremely proud of her time at IU and insisted on yearly trips back to the campus to walk the halls of her former glory days. She especially loved reminiscing about Hoagy Carmichael writing songs in her favorite college bar, stories of a raucous party with her cousin Byron when a jazz band performed in their house, (and afterwards getting busted by her strict Methodist parents), walking the tree-filled campus to sit with a statue of former chancellor, Herman B. Wells, and crossing the Jordan River, which is now literally a trickle and a few puddles.
After college, Mary Ann lived one year in a mud hut in Lesotho, Africa. She enjoyed describing her time in Africa to anyone who would listen, telling them about the mountains, encounters with wildlife in Kruger National Park, and driving her VW van to town for supplies.
Following life in Africa, Mary Ann relocated to Lawrence KS. In Lawrence, she built a loyal base of piano students, both young and adult, whom she loved. In partnership with two friends, she purchased and managed Treble Clef Music, of which she was very proud. She especially enjoyed working with her son Galen and all the musicians she met through the store. She often spent free time playing in jazz bands such as River City Six and New Horizons, performing gigs in town and nearby. In addition to her mastery of the piano, Mary Ann was a long-time trombone player with the Lawrence City Band. Upon the encouragement of her daughter Kendra, Mary Ann began working with students with autism in Lawrence Public Schools. Despite sometimes coming home slightly battered or bruised, she saw the tender hearts of the kids with whom she worked. She ultimately switched positions to assistant to the librarian at West Middle School. While at West, one of her most memorable contributions began as a spontaneous tickling of the ivories on a pushed-aside piano in the lunchroom. (She never passed by a piano without at least a few bars.) What started as a whim ended up a daily chorus of Happy Birthday songs, the KU fight song, and anything else the kids suggested that Mary Ann could recognize.
Mary Ann had so many joys in life – softball on the Stinky Cheese Shoppe team, basketball among them. (She shot hoops into her early seventies.)
She often expressed regret over selling an old ski boat in which she spent lazy days on the lake. Mary Ann thoroughly enjoyed a good concert, and she took great pride in any little accomplishment of her kids or grandkids. In the 1980’s, she discovered snow skiing and spent most subsequent spring breaks on a pair of skis, a Snickers in her pocket for lunch. Her wry smile and quiet sense of humor will be missed.
While on a date with another man to the movie E.T., Mary Ann met her husband Dick Sengpiehl, who was with his daughters. Together, they traveled the world gathering memories – Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, New Orleans, Grand Cayman, Indiana (of course), California, Puerto Rico, and one adventurous trip where they got lost on a mountain road in the wilderness of Wyoming in their RV. Once Dick sustained a lifelong spinal cord injury, she changed ascourse and went on the road as his business partner, became his CNA, his caregiver, and even his bartender as much as she could. This was her new purpose, and she handled it with dedication and grace.
Mary Ann is survived by loving family. Her husband, Richard “Dick” Sengpiehl and their beloved golden retriever Max, of the home; daughter Kendra Metz, son in law Tim Metz, grandson Owen, all of Lawrence. Son Galen Adams, wife Tisha, and granddaughters Lyla and Cora, all of Emporia. Stepdaughter Adrienne Sengpiehl and grandsons Oliver and Elliott Herbert, of San Francisco. Stepdaughter Lillian Sengpiehl and husband Dan Schnelle and granddaughter Evelyn Schnelle, of Los Angeles.
A celebration of life will be held Wednesday, June 30 at 9:30 am at Plymouth Congregational Church, Lawrence KS. We would love all Mary Ann fans to attend. Colorful clothing is recommended – especially KU red and blue or IU crimson and cream. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4eYLlWla1k
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for gifts to be made in support of Music Therapy students at the University of Kansas. Please direct gifts to KU Endowment Association, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044-0928, or you may give securely online at kuendowment.org/music or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044. Please enter “Music Therapy Program” in the “My gift will benefit” box. This service meant so much to Mary Ann over the last years of her life.
For those of you with precious memories of Mary Ann, we ask that you write them down and bring them with you to the Celebration of Life to add to a scrapbook for the family.