MADISON—Mary Louise Niedermeier, resident of Madison, Wis., was killed by a drunk driver near Grand Island, Neb., on Jan. 5, 2020, at the age of 72. She had just spent two weeks celebrating the holidays with family, playing and telling stories with her grandchildren in Portland and Steamboat Springs.
Mary was born on July 30, 1947, in Athens, Ga. to Matthias and Thelma (Thoreson) Stelly. Childhood years in Kenya stimulated an early interest in diverse cultures, and subsequent life in Louisiana helped foster her passion for cooking and Cajun food. After moving to Madison, Wis., in 9th grade, she fell in love with her high school sweetheart, Bill. Their relationship grew stronger during college, even while Mary studied abroad in France and Bill completed a semester in Brazil. After graduation and marriage all in one week, their honeymoon was a full summer in a fire lookout in Glacier National Park.
Mary and Bill spent two years with the Indian Health Service in Shiprock, N.M., where they started a family and founded a lifelong fascination with the Southwest and Native American culture. After Bill’s orthopedic residency in Milwaukee, Wis., they moved to Germany for three years with their two young boys whom Mary led on volksmarches, castle explorations and travels around Europe.
Throughout her life, Mary devoted herself to educating others, first as a French teacher, and later through volunteer work; she organized school science fairs, tutored for the Literacy Network and hosted and mentored foreign students from around the world. Most of all, she loved to bring family and friends together to share stories and amazing meals. We are heartbroken at her loss, but take comfort in the messages from those she touched, from Algeria and Bhutan to Namibia and Vietnam, who also feel as though they have lost their “mom.” Thank you, Mary, for a lifetime of giving, for warming cold hands, filling empty tummies and nurturing inquisitive minds. Thank you for a lifetime of companionship and shared adventures.
Mary is survived by her husband of over 50 years, William Niedermeier; her sons, David (Mónica) and Michael (Alison); her grandchildren, Tomás, Kai and Nikko; her siblings, Julia Pernet, David (Linda) Stelly and Carol (Jeff) White; her sister-in-law, Ann (Donald Chambers) Niedermeier; as well as loving cousins, nieces and nephews.
A service to celebrate Mary’s life will be planned for the spring. Memorials may be made to Madison’s Literacy Network: