Mary Braamse Edgar, of East Lansing, departed on her last trip on April 20, 2022, following a severe stroke. Always active and independent, she liked to say, “I can’t leave – I have too much to do.” The morning her daughter found Mary slumped in her favorite recliner and informed her that paramedics were on the way, her response was a succinct, “Oh, Shit.” She passed quietly at Sparrow Hospice House in Lansing eight days later, with her daughters at her side.
Born June 2, 1933 to Byron and Edna (Brown) Braamse in Munising, MI, Mary grew up in Escanaba during the school year, spending weekends and school breaks at the summer cottage resorts run by her parents, first the Hiawatha Lodge in AuTrain and later the Rock River Beach Cottages. She loved the outdoors from an early age, finding turtles in the AuTrain River and digging clay out of the shoreline rocks to make models.
After graduating from Escanaba High School in 1951, Mary went south to Michigan State College for a degree in Home Economics Education. While there, she belonged to the Tower Guard and the Delta Zeta sorority, and one day at a bus stop, she met her future husband, James Edgar, a Navy veteran from Grand Ledge. After graduating in 1955, she alarmed her mother by giving her only three weeks’ notice for their wedding. Edna pulled it off, however, and Mary and Jim were married in the LaBounty cottage at Rock River on August 6, 1955.
Unlike many newlyweds in the 1950s, Mary was determined to have a career. She began by teaching in the Dearborn school district while Jim took a law degree from Wayne State University, transferring to Waverly schools in Lansing when they moved to Grand Ledge after his graduation. They had two daughters, Kate and Ann, and in 1967 moved to East Lansing. Mary returned to Michigan State for her Masters in Science Education, and shifted her focus from teaching home economics to middle-school science.
In 1978, Jim decided to try his hand at business instead of law, and Mary and Jim bought the St. Johns Furniture Store, in St. Johns. Mary also decided that lawyering didn’t look all that hard, and when her daughters reached high school, she enrolled in the Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing. Although she had always been an excellent student, she later remembered her time in law school as the hardest thing she’d ever done. Her daughters remembered it as the period when they were not allowed to eat in the kitchen if Mom was studying there – chewing made too much noise.
After ten years, they sold the furniture store, Jim retired after being injured in a serious car accident, and Mary took up a solo law practice specializing in Family Law. She never formally retired from it, although after twenty years she gradually stopped taking new clients. She never did manage to persuade the advertising salesmen who continued to call the office that no, she really did not want to increase her business, thank you very much.
Mary had a lifelong love of nature, history, and decorative arts. Inspired by the Bicentennial craft revivals, Mary began collecting antiques and attending estate auctions, often bringing home quilts and baskets. After seeing an advertisement for a duck decoy woodcarving class offered through the Michigan State University Museum, she went to the class carrying only a Swiss Army knife – the instructor, who became a dear friend, never let her forget it even as she became an award-winning decoy carver with an extensive collection of power tools. She went from collecting antique quilts to making new ones, and studied antique textiles which led to membership in the American Quilt Study Group and participation in textile history tours to museums in England and France.
Mary also loved traveling: with her mother Edna, her childhood friends, her sorority sisters, and her daughter Kate. A favorite was the series of chartered Holland America cruises put together by Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion which included adventures like zip-lining in Alaska (“I have never enjoyed anything less in my entire life!”), rafting in Quebec and Spain, a roof-walking excursion in Stockholm, and a trek through a bog in Estonia.
Mary’s mother Edna was a passionate genealogist and active supporter of the Alger County Historical Society in Munising. Mary continued Edna’s work, with particular attention to the Abel Williams Fur Trading Post, an 1840s log building originally built on Grand Island and later relocated to the Historical Society grounds. Researching furs and trade goods from the fur trading era, Mary built up a display collection to exhibit seasonally in the cabin. Interest in historic log cabins extended to the two log buildings moved and rebuilt at Rock River. Working with John Parlin and others, she embarked on a 12-year project to research and restore the Rescue, an 1881 Bowdish and Sons Skaneateles sailboat originally built for Dr. Edwin A Lodge of Detroit.
Accomplished at the traditional Yooper arts of ice-fishing, berry picking, and gardening, Mary was an expert pie-baker, a skill she happily shared with the Order of the Eastern Stars Lodge #267 in Okemos, in support of their monthly fundraising Chicken Dinners. She held the post of Worthy Matron for two years.
Along with her daughters, Kate and Ann of East Lansing, Mary is further survived by her nephew Len Braamse (Susan), John Braamse (Donna) and children Johnny and Jacob, all of Marquette, Jack Braamse of Rock River, Susan Obradovich (Daniel) and their children Shane Graves (Alexandria) and Everly of Crivitz, WI, Nick Obradovich (Alicia Kubichek) of Marquette, and Rachel Obradovich of Boulder, CO along with many loving Edgar nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents Byron and Edna Braamese, her brothers and sisters-in-law Peter (Peg) and William (Gloria) Braamse, and her husband, James Edgar,
Mary once told Susan that after she passed, she wanted to be laid out in Grandma’s front yard at Rock River on a nice day while family and friends threw a big party in her honor. Given the normal early spring weather conditions in the Upper Peninsula, she will be “planted” (her term for it) on Monday, May 9th, in the family plot in Serenity Pines cemetery in AuTrain following a small family service at Rock River. Details for the memorial party, which is likely to become a whole series of parties throughout the summer, will be forthcoming at a later date.
Mary could do anything she put her mind to. She will be dearly missed by her family and her many friends.
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