Mary Ann Darling was born in Passaic, New Jersey on May 9th, 1935 and lived until May 6th, 2021. She was born to Edna and Dudley Shepard, joining her brother Bob. Their home was in Nutley, New Jersey.
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Mary Ann and her mom shared a love for making friends, entertaining, and roller coasters. Both were talented, wise and wonderful, and gifted with the ability to see the good in people and make them feel special. Edna’s example showed Mary Ann how to have a friend and be a friend. She learned her lesson well. Mary Ann had hundreds of friends throughout her life, including Audrey (Anderson) Librizzi, who’s friendship started in a sandbox at 3 years of age. They continued as best friends for 83 more years.
A “Daddy’s Girl,” and proud of it, Mary Ann found her father’s love as close to perfect love as one could find. Dudley treated his daughter as a person, which was unusual in that day. He always encouraged Mary Ann in her love for math, even though it was considered a “male” subject. They shared a love for the Yankees, fishing and dessert-dessert. Mary Ann knew her father as a loving, giving, generous, selfless man . . . she was her father’s daughter.
Mary Ann adored her big brother, Bob, 11 years her elder. And Bob cherished Mary Ann. He taught her many things: how to swim, how to dive, how to spit and how to whistle. Additionally, Bob taught her important life lessons including, when someone asks you to look into the end of a garden hose, don’t do it, which Mary Ann was able to pass on to her own children and grandchildren. Bob married Mary Frobose, and Mary Ann soon became the beloved “Auntie” to their children, Mary Ann (her namesake), Nancy, Bob and Betsy. A mutual love affair.
With no living grandparents, Mary Ann was adopted as a granddaughter by three of her mother’s friends, as well as her Aunt Gussie and Uncle Neil. They all doted on, loved on and spoiled Mary Ann as their own, and she held dear that she was thoroughly loved by them all.
Mary Ann attended Spring Garden and Yantacaw Elementary Schools, Nutley Junior High and Nutley High School, where she amassed “oodles” of friends: the boys next door, Johnny and Freddy; “The Girls,” Reenie, Pat, Joan, Mary, Carolyn, Jo Ann; The “Jersey Girls,” Jane, Cynthia, Audrey, Judy, Barbara, Vera Jane; the neighborhood girls, Winnie, Lynn, Babs, another Jane, and Gain; and the DD’s (identity unknown due to sworn secrecy). Our “Jersey Girl,” Mary Ann loved the ocean (NOT the Pacific), and spent many a summer with her girlfriends on Normandy Beach at the Jersey Shore. She also waited tables at the Normandy Inn for a little extra spending money.
In 1953, Mary Ann was off to college, attending St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, were she was a math major, science minor, President of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, learned to ski and enjoyed watching her Saints play ice hockey. Upon graduation in 1957, Mary Ann returned to Nutley to teach math at Nutley Junior High.
Mary Ann married Ralph Darling, Jr, in May of 1958. Mary Ann and Ralph had met in college, were married and then moved to Potomac, Maryland, for Ralph’s work. As a girl, Mary Ann loved playing dolls and paper dolls. All she ever wanted to be when she grew up was a mom. And an incredible mom she was to Linda (her favorite), Sue (her favorite), Gary (her favorite), Rob (her favorite) and Sally (her favorite). She loved, comforted, cheered for, and inspired her children and made them laugh. Most of all, she made each feel special. Mary Ann grew up in a neighborhood overflowing with love, joy and a zillion playmates, so she made sure her kids did too. In addition to being an incredible mom to the Darling kids, she was a remarkable next-door, neighborhood, friend, teammate, and community mom. Mary Ann belonged to a wonderful, close-knit bridge club, was a member of the Potomac Garden Club, and was a beloved neighbor.
Mary Ann’s family moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1977. Mary Ann picked up where she left off, making numerous Tucson friends, including Marj Jorden. Mary Ann met Marj at Christ the King Church. Their friendship was instant and lasted a lifetime. Marj took pure delight in Mary Ann’s happiness and accomplishments, also feeling her pain. Marj’s selfless, giving, generous, loving spirit reminded Mary Ann of her father, Dudley. Marj was the sister Mary Ann always longed for. Mary Ann and Marj took their sister act to St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church where they did epic work for the Altar Guild and Ministry for Education. Mary Ann was also a lay-reader and chalice bearer. Her volunteer work in the community included work for Easter Seal’s, Salvation Army, Shalom House, feeding the hungry at St. Martin’s Center and sharing her love for math as a classroom math aide.
Anyone who didn’t know Mary Ann, need only meet her 10 grandchildren to feel her essence. They spent “Monday’s with Gramma” and went on special trips with her to San Diego and Disneyland. In addition to radiating Mary Ann’s kind and generous spirit, each shares her sense of play, love for fun and adventure (and roller coasters), creativity, and her genuine capacity for loving and being a good friend.
Mary Ann spent the last 20 years living, laughing, eating out and traveling with a wonderful man, Edgar Dunn, who showered her with love and affection, and protected and cared for her in her final years.
Enduring love and gratitude to Mary Ann’s caregivers, Maria Hill, Marcia Radcliff, Eva Garcia, Dolores Hernandez, Brenda, Mev and Francesca. Heartfelt thanks also to the loving staff and friends at Villa Hermosa Senior Living and Casa De La Luz Hospice.
Mary Ann was preceded in death by Edna Shepard, Dudley Shepard, Bob Shepard, Mary (Frobose) Shepard, and her loyal dog Gracie.
Mary Ann is survived by her partner, Edgar Dunn; her children, Linda Caverly, Sue Darling, Gary Darling, Rob Darling, Sally Bockisch; their father, Ralph Darling, Jr; her beloved daughters-in-law, Sandy Darling and Jeana Darling, and her sons-in-law, Michael Caverly and Eric Bockisch; her grandchildren, Lara Darling, Stephen Caverly, Marc Darling, Dean (Kelsey) Caverly, Anna Darling, Lizzie Caverly, Scott Bockisch, Heidi Bockisch, Natalie Darling, Matthew Darling; her nieces and nephew, Mary Ann (Bob) Romas, Nancy (Butch) Luxton, Bob (Terry) Shepard, Betsy (Mike) Stoffers; her goddaughter, Joanne Librizzi Cyphers; and oodles of friends including, Audrey Librizzi and Marj Jorden.
Services will be at 3:00PM on Saturday, June 12th, 2021, at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church. Refreshments to follow. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Mary Ann’s name to The Arthritis Foundation.