Our mother, Mary Fran Bartell, born a Reising, March 8, 1934, passed away Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Pullman.

I’m not sure where to go from here; how exactly to write an obituary? How to put in all the important information about such an amazing person in one short, concise essay? I suppose I should list her brothers and sisters; the ones who’ve proceeded her to glory: Ellen, Paul, Madge; and those still kicking around for us to love in this life: Greg and Tom. I should name her four children: Paul (me), Peter, John and Brian; her seven grandkids: Ryan, Shawn, Mary Katherine, Molly Shannon, William, Helena and Bodie. Her nieces and nephews whom she loved to no end; you’ll have to check Facebook for that listing. And mention her cats; how when on vacation she would call them so they could hear her voice on the answering machine. And, of course, I should add that her late husband, Robert Peter Bartell, is there in glory with her now.

I guess I should mention how much she loved bridge. How the monthly bridge club games were an event she set her watch by. How she’d whip up mouthwatering desserts when the bidding was to be done at 505 Courtland Place. And how her loving boys were not allowed to have any of the aforementioned desserts unless there were leftovers (which there never were!). And though she lived most of her life in the rolling green hills of Bel Air, Md., her formative years were spent in Gary, Ind., and Chicago, young and free. The look in her eyes when she’d talk about those South Side days. And, really, I should mention how much she loved the beach. Lake Michigan. Rehoboth Beach. Bonita Springs. Any place with sand and water.

But, mostly, there’s a lot of blank space in this writing. Things I never asked. I never asked her what she was like as a child; if she was loud, or quiet and thoughtful. Or neither. Never asked what it was like to be one of six kids growing up in the ’30s and ’40s in rough-and-tumble Gary, Ind. Never asked what answer she would give if her third grade teacher asked what her favorite color was. What her favorite toy was. And high school. What age did she drink her first beer? Was it beer or something stronger? And what, exactly, happened on those days when she cut school and hopped aboard the South Shore Line for a day in the big city?

So, I’m going to leave it as this; a graceful woman, whose amazing intellect drove her to read voraciously, a loving mother and wife, whose sense of humor she passed along to all of her kids except for Brian, has passed away at the age of 86. And, next spring, with migrating shorebirds congregating at water’s edge and Red Admiral butterflies flitting about in the dunes, Mary Fran’s ashes will be spread along the shore of Lake Michigan, and her spirit will swim free and frolic in the waves with loved ones who are already there, waiting oh so patiently.

In lieu of flowers, the family ask that you make a donation to your local library. That would make her very happy. Her memorial service dates will be posted online (once we get our act together). All are invited.

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