Mary Lu died on February 10th as a result of a stroke. She died peacefully at her home, surrounded, cared for, and loved by her family.
Mary Lu was born to Jim and Audrey Stewart in Duluth on August 19, 1936. She lived in several Minnesota cities during her childhood as her father, a salesman for Phillip Morris, was transferred within the company. If you’re over 70 years old, you might appreciate that Mary Lu once met Johnny Roventini, the Phillip Morris bellhop who made famous the “Call for Philip Morris!” ad campaign.
When Mary Lu’s dad retired, the family moved to the stately brick home on Range street in Mankato where he grew up and where Mary Lu’s grandmother still lived. The home was built by her grandfather and is now listed on the Minnesota Historical Society’s list of historic homes.
In retirement, Mary Lu’s dad opened a hardware store in a downtown Mankato building also built by her grandfather. Both the home and the hardware store were built with bricks made in her grandfather’s brickyard. Bricks from the brickyard found their way north to Crosslake, Minnesota, where Mary Lu’s dad used them in the foundation of a cabin he built on the shores of Big Trout Lake.
Every Friday at noon, the family drove from Mankato to Crosslake for weekends at a cabin and Mary Lu spent her summers there. She grew deep roots at Trout Lake.
Mary Lu graduated from Mankato High School in 1954 and entered the St. Barnabas School of Nursing, one of three family members to attend that school. She graduated from St. Barnabas, receiving her nursing cap, in August, 1957. A month later she married her high school sweetheart, Richard “Dick” Dietz. Dick was attending Hamline University in St. Paul at the time. When he went on to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, Mary Lu worked as a nurse at St. Barnabas Hospital to support them. She was pregnant with their first son, Steve, at the time. On her 22nd birthday, she came home from the hospital with Steve and began her lifelong career of caring for the family.
After graduate school the family moved to Texas for work, where their second son, Mike, was born, and then for a short while to Orlando, Florida. When Dick joined General Mills, the family returned to Minnesota, where their third child, Jill, was born a short while later. During Dick’s many years with General Mills, the family mostly lived near the Twin Cities, but also spent a few years in England and Florida. Finally, in retirement they moved to the beloved Trout Lake home Mary Lu’s father had built so many years before.
Most of you will recognize that Mary Lu’s care-giving focus was not limited to her family. She spent her lifetime caring for people in need. Wherever Dick and Mary Lu lived, she was devoted to serving others. She found a key channel for her mission and a vibrant circle of love and support in return at her Crosslake church home. In addition to her church work, she was a hospice volunteer for 20 years. At 83 years old, she could still be found scrubbing bathrooms at Camp Knutson, serving campers with special needs, and helping with fundraisers.
After retirement in 1992, Mary Lu and Dick traveled extensively, often in the company of friends. They visited all 50 states and 81 countries, from the Arctic to Antarctica, from Australia to India. In between trips, Mary Lu continued her mission to serve others. An example of her kind attention was her handling of greeting cards, which she bought by the dozen. Each week she sifted through her supplies to find just the right card for the right person for every occasion. She even knew which shops stocked the best cards for different purposes, from birthday to anniversary to sympathy. And it was not unheard of for her to send cards that were a little racy.
Mary Lu didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. The harshest comment she might make was, he or she is “not my favorite person.” The one exception to this rule resulted from the 2016 presidential election. As for her politics, she sang in a church choir for over 20 years with Amy Klobuchar’s mother and they got along very well.
Mary Lu is survived by her husband, Dick, her children Steve, Mike, and Jill and their spouses, Janet, Dyan, and Ande. She has nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mary Lu and her family are grateful for the kindness and care provided by all of her friends over the weeks since her stroke and for the love shown to Mary Lu through a full and happy lifetime. It takes a village and you have been a wonderful village.
Memorials may be made to Crosslake Presbyterian Church, Camp Knutson on Trout Lake, or to a charity of the donor’s choosing.
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