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Mary E. Jensen May

PRINCETON – Mary E. Jensen May, 95, of Princeton, died peacefully at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 6, 2013, at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, surrounded by family members.

Born Mary Eileen Devine on March 6, 1918, near Deer Grove, she was one of eight children of William and Catherine Devine. She attended St. Mary Grade School in Sterling, then the “Advanced” Country School. She was a speaker at her eighth-grade graduation. She attended Bishop Muldoon High School in Rockford for 2 years, staying with her maternal grandmother. After her grandmother’s passing, she returned to complete her high school education at what is now Sterling Newman Catholic High School, graduating in 1936. She was awarded a scholarship to St. Mary-of-The-Woods College. She taught at St. Mary Grade School in Sterling for 3 years.

She married William P. Jensen on Nov. 22, 1939, in Tampico, in a ceremony performed by her uncle, Monsignor John McGuire. Mary and Bill moved to Princeton in 1941.  Together they would have 10 sons, William, Robert, John, James, Gary, Gregory, Lawrence, Kevin, Thomas, and Steven. Bill died Sept. 6, 1961. She then married Harry W. May on Dec. 30, 1973. He died Sept. 11, 1989.

Mary began working at Perry Memorial Hospital in 1960 as a nurse’s aide during her husband Bill’s illness. She would continue working there for 32 years, during which she would become a ward clerk. After retiring from Perry Memorial Hospital, she would continue helping others by serving as a home health care aide for many years. She would also receive training and became a service provider of the Bureau County Hospice during this time. She continued helping others well into her 80s – frequently serving clients who were younger than she. Through her work at the hospital and in-home health care, she would become well-known for her caring and compassion for others.  

Raised a devout Catholic, Mary was a longtime member of St. Louis Catholic Church, dating back to the year she and her husband Bill moved to Princeton. At the time of her death she was the oldest member of the St. Louis parish. She was a member of the St. Louis Altar Guild and the Council of Catholic Women. Her husband Bill was a trustee of St. Louis parish at the time of the construction of the current church. Despite tragedies and losses that befell the family, including a tornado that destroyed the family farm buildings in 1959; a fire that destroyed the family home in 1960; the loss of her first husband a year later; and the tragic losses of a son and grandchildren, Mary held firmly to her faith and always trusted that our Lord had reasons for these events. Even in what seemed like the darkest of times, she would point out to family that there were still reasons to be thankful and hopeful.

Mary was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, obtaining membership after a 30-year journey into her ancestry. She was named Princeton’s “Mother of the Year” in 1960. She was also a longtime member of Bureau County Home Extension; the Perry Memorial Auxiliary, the Bureau County Senior Citizens Association, and the Princeton Elks Lodge 1461.

Surviving are nine sons, William (Judy), John, Greg (Joanne Sheldon), and Larry, all of Princeton, Robert of Chicago, James (Teresa) of Plano, Gary (Deb) of Dublin, Ohio, Thomas of Peoria, and Steven (Pam) of Rockford. She also is survived by one brother, Robert (Virginia) Devine of Rockford; a very special niece, Mary Ann (Michael) Velasquez of Rock Falls, who was raised by the family from birth to age 2; 24 grandchildren; 46 great-grandchildren, four great-great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Also preceding her in death were her parents; one son, Kevin; four grandchildren; three sisters; and three brothers.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m., with the rosary recited at 7:45 p.m., Wednesday at Norberg Memorial Home in Princeton. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Louis Catholic Church in Princeton, with the Rev. Jeffrey Stirniman officiating and Deacon John Murphy assisting. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in Sterling.

Memorials may be directed to a charity of the donor’s choice.

The family would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr. Martin Faber, the Rev. Jeffrey Stirniman, the nurses and staff at Perry Memorial Hospital and Colonial Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, and the Alternatives for Older Adults for their compassion and care for our beloved Mary during the past year.

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