Mary Coral, born Mary Coral Anderson, daughter of Horace U. Anderson and Mary Mange Anderson, passed away suddenly at home on August 9, 2013.
Mary lept into this world on February 29, 1932 in San Bernadina, California and charged into life with gusto, only slowing during the last few years.
Mary grew up in Venice, CA near the beach. She became a Mariner Scout and learned to sail off the Pacific coast. She supported herself through Santa Monica City College by working as a telephone operator. She joined her older brother, Albert, at UCLA where she intended to major in English, but work in the entomology lab making drawings of fruit flies, renewed her interest in art, which her mother cultivated by taking her daughter to museums and exhibits as a child.
At UCLA Mary met Michael Maher, her future husband. Michael, who had suffered a severe spinal chord injury in a diving accident as a teenager, was studying endocrinology and later received his Ph.D. from UCLA. Mary and Michael were married in 1956.
The young couple moved to New York, where Mary worked in the circulation department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and studied art at the Art Students League while Michael pursued post graduate work. Mary commented that she had never been so cold in her life as she was during the two winters she spent in New York. Mary and Michael moved to Lawrence, KS in 1958 when Michael accepted a position at KU.
Here she gave birth to two sons, Nicholas P. and Angus C. Maher. Lawrence was to be Mary’s home for most of the next 55 years, except for the sabbatical year she and Michael spent in Berkeley, CA and the year Mary spent organizing her father’s seed business files following her divorce in 1974. Being the granddaughter of a Congregational minister on her father’s side and a free spirited grandmother on her mother’s side, Mary inherited a strong sense of justice and determination to correct wrongs if she could.
Mary was a member of the League of Women Voters, a founder of the Lawrence chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, active in the Lawrence chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, and many other peace and human rights groups. She actively picketed and demonstrated for racial equality and integration in Lawrence and against American involvement in foreign wars, particularly Vietnam. In 1972 Mary was one of the February Sisters, a group of women and children who peacefully occupied the East Asian Studies offices at K.U, demanding university sponsored day care, birth control services at the student health center, more women faculty, and a women’s studies program at K.U. Mary helped start Lorien, an alternative free school, and served as its first director, while still finding time to cook gourmet meals and complete her BFA in print making from KU. After divorcing Michael, Mary returned from California and started work on an Masters degree in Art Therapy, commuting twice a week to Emporia.
In 1977 she and Jim Cooley became domestic partners, which they remained until her death. While interning for her masters degree at the Menninger Foundation, Mary was discovered to have breast cancer. Following surgery she took a position as an assistant Arts and Recreation Director at a senior center. Later she became program director and over a fifteen year period built a model arts and recreation program. In 1994, at the age of 62, Mary again lept into school and completed her unfinished Masters degree, this time in Social Work. Mary worked as a volunteer coordinator for a youth advocacy agency, a counselor at a women’s shelter, and as a social worker at a community mental health center. Plagued with declining health and re-occurrences of cancer, Mary retired from her position but never left her passion for art or for justice.
Mary is survived by her partner, Jim, her two sons, Nicholas and Angus, three granddaughters, Cassie, Heather, and Lynn, and a great granddaughter. She is also survived by a sister-in-law, an uncle and aunt, niece, two nephews and spouse, grand nephews, many cousins, and her many friends in Lawrence.