Obituary for Mary Ann Werner
Mary Ann Kirby Werner died on April 6, 2017 at her home in Chesapeake, VA. She was born on December 27, 1931 in Pittsburgh, PA to John Lee and Rose Marion McCaffrey Kirby.
Mary Ann grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from St. Paul Cathedral High School in 1949. After high school, she attended Seton Hill College in Greensburg, PA where she received a bachelor's degree in Music Education. Many years later, Mary Ann received an associates degree with a concentration in Psychology and Alcoholism Counseling from Columbia Greene Community College, in Hudson, New York.
Fresh out of college in the summer of 1953, Mary Ann got a job at Camp Akiba in the Pocono mountains. There, she met and quickly fell in love with her fellow counselor, the handsome and charming redhead, Richard (Dick) Werner. Mary Ann and Dick married one year later on August 16 at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. They started their life together in Levittown, Long Island where they were both employed as teachers. Mary Ann left her teaching job when their first child was born and she became a full time mother and homemaker. The family moved to Katonah, NY in 1957 and by 1966, when they moved upstate to Copake, they had a lively brood of four girls and one boy. In 1967, they had their sixth child, (a boy!) and their family was complete. In 1974, Mary Ann joined her husband as a full partner in Birchwood Realty. The company tagline, “Where Clients Become Friends”, embodied the spirit they brought to the family business.
In 1991, Mary Ann founded the nonprofit, S.E.S.A.M.E (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation). S.E.S.A.M.E. is the leading national voice for the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment of students by teachers and other school staff. Mary Ann founded S.E.S.A.M.E. to provide a confidential, supportive and informational referral network dedicated to the prevention of sexual abuse by school staff members. S.E.S.A.M.E. promotes nationwide legislation that provides criminal penalties for offenders.
Mary Ann was a member of numerous associations that work against sexual assault including the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse - New York State, One Voice, and the American Coalition for Abuse Awareness. Mary Ann spoke at public hearings and national conferences. She contributed chapters to two books, The Psychology of Sexual Victimization, edited by Michele Antoinette Paludi and Dear Teacher, If You Only Knew…., edited by John M. Seryak.
In 1998, Mary Ann received the Distinguished Alumna Leadership Award from Seton Hill College for her work with S.E.S.A.M.E. In 2000, Governor John Pataki of New York State, recognised her contribution to the “SESAME Bill”, which has been passed in numerous states since then. This legislation has prevented schools from “passing the trash” by terminating an employee without publicly reporting inappropriate misconduct. There is no doubt that her work has saved countless children from abuse. “She sowed the seed for a profound social justice movement that is finally beginning to make an impact on American schools.” Chester C. Kent,Ph.D; J.D.
In 2002, Mary Ann retired to Virginia Beach, VA and started an exciting new chapter in her life. She hosted lifelong friends and family members; developed close friendships; played countless Canasta games; volunteered at the Old Coast Guard Station; traveled to Massachusetts, Maine, and Idaho to visit her children and grandchildren; attended numerous family celebrations; and cheered on her four Moulton grandsons at countless track meets in and around Virginia Beach.
A life-long learner, Mary Ann embraced the internet. She used email to stay in touch with doctors, friends, family and S.E.S.A.M.E colleagues. She kept up with her facebook friends, and diligently researched her many health concerns, discovering leading physicians for her medical needs. Mary Ann’s self-advocacy added years to her life as she sought out renowned medical centers in Boston, Denver, and Bethesda. Mary Ann loved waking up early, reading, swimming, walking the along the Virginia Beach boardwalk, writing in her journal, traveling, watching documentaries, spending time with family, and ending each day with a glass of wine - sometimes two..
Most importantly, Mary Ann was a loving mother who devoted herself to raising her young family. “Napkins on your laps and elbows off the table” were among the lifelong values instilled in her children around the dining room table. Family dinnertime was a priority despite the hectic demands of raising a large family and running a business. During those years, Mary Ann and Dick enjoyed a few moments of relaxation when they took their drinks outside after dinner and watched the sun go down over the Taconic Range while leaving the tasks of “redding off” the table and washing the dishes to their children. As her children grew and moved away, Mary Ann always found ways to keep them close. Two days before she died, Mary Ann called her six children together to tell them how much she loved them; how privileged she was to be their mother; and to give them their final instructions to “be strong, be kind, and love one another”.
Mary Ann will be remembered for her beautiful smile; her deep love for family and friends; her photo albums and scrapbooks organized, archived, and filled with family history; her gracious hospitality and sense of fun; her deep bonds with her two brothers and her extended family in Pittsburgh; and her determination to grow from a protected girl who came of age in the 1940’s into the strong woman who found her own voice much later in life.
Mary Ann is survived by her brother, Father Thomas McCaffrey Kirby of Elizabeth, PA; daughter Kathleen Werner-Leap of Santa Rosa, CA; daughter Joanne Abrams and her husband Daniel of Portland, ME; daughter Marion Werner Moulton and her husband David of Virginia Beach, VA; son Richard and his wife Mahalet of Virginia Beach, VA; daughter Patricia Werner Blankenship, and her husband David of South Portland, ME; son Thomas and his wife Suzanne of Daniel Island, SC. She is also survived by eleven grandchildren Kimberly, Megan, Sarah, Micah, Naomi, Timothy, Gregory, Daniel, Sean, Grace, Linda and great-grandchildren Jeremiah, Jamilah, and Jaeda.
Mary Ann will be loved and will missed by those who recently joined her growing family circle including: Ben, Jackson, and Carly Detar; Brenten, Jade, and Jasmine Crutcher; Junior Belisea; Megan Rowland Moulton; Leah Prezioso; and Adam Hawkes. She was joyously anticipating the arrival of her fourth great-grandchild, Baby Boy Moulton. Mary Ann will also be greatly missed by her many friends whose lives she touched throughout her life.
Mary Ann was predeceased by her husband, Richard J. Werner, Sr. in 2001 and her brother, John Lee Kirby, Jr., in 2017.
Mary Ann’s children provided round the clock care during her final four months in hospice care and they would like to thank her Heartland Hospice team for their loving support and kindness.
A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, April 9 at 1pm at her daughter’s home in Virginia Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to S.E.S.A.M.E at http://www.sesamenet.org or Linda Kareema Werner’s college fund. Contributions to Linda’s college fund can be made out to College America and mailed to Davenport & Co., 101 West Main St. Ste 4000, Norfolk, VA 23501 atten Bill Emerson.
A memorial service is also being planned for August 2017 in Copake, NY.