Mary Ellen Innes

Born: Sun., Jul. 11, 1915
Died: Sat., Feb. 11, 2012

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Mary Ellen Hunter Innes July 11, 1915 – February 11, 2012 All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my mother. Abraham Lincoln Our wonderful mother – Mary Ellen, Manny, and Gigi – departed this life on February 11, 2012, at the age of 96, and is now joyfully reunited with her beloved husband Jim. Mom was born in Missoula, Montana on July 11, 1915 to William Hunter and Cecilia Flynn Hunter. She grew up and attended elementary school in Missoula. Then at the age of 14, she and her sister Margaret moved to Columbus, Montana to live with their Aunt Birdie who believed that getting a good education was important for girls. Although it was the 1930s, Birdie encouraged Mom and her sister to excel in school and continue on to college. After spending her high school years in Columbus, a time which Mom described as "wonderful, fun years for me," she had the opportunity to attend college in Billings, Montana. Mom eagerly accepted that challenge. In the 1930s, women had limited career choices. Mom often told us, "There were three choices for women: you could be a nurse which I didn't want to be, a secretary I hadn't taken anything along that line in school, or a teacher." Teaching turned out to be a perfect career choice for Mom. Her teaching career began upon graduation from college in 1935 and spanned several decades. She shared many wonderful memories about teaching in elementary classrooms and one-room schoolhouses in Montana and Oregon. Explaining her first year of teaching, she said, "I had all six grades in one room. I had to build the fire and I was the janitor too... I did the whole nine yards." Mom influenced the lives and education of hundreds of children. In fact, several of her favorite grade school students continued to correspond with her through the present day. Mom and Dad met each other when they were both living in the same boarding house in Plains, Montana where Dad worked as a banker and Mom as a teacher. Dad used to tell us that Mom was the prettiest girl he had ever seen and that she was always the life of the party. He said that the only time she was ever quiet was when he pulled out his engagement ring and asked her to marry him, "She was silent for a moment and then looked up at me and whispered, yes." They were married on July 7, 1940 and spent 49 loving years together. They lived in Montana, Washington, California, and finally settled in Oregon. Mom and Dad spent their retirement years together in Salem until he died in July 1989. Their marriage had been a celebration of love, respect, and partnership. We watched our parents work together to create a wonderful life; every day they showed us what it meant to be a loving spouse and an engaging parent. Their commitment to community service silently instilled within us the importance of social responsibility, and we learned to consider, "if not me, who; if not now, when?" As much as Mom loved being a teacher, she was equally enthusiastic about being a mother and raising us well. Her own words describe her 1950s life best: "When we were in Hermiston and the girls were little, I took Judy to ballet and Jane had ballet too. I was a Blue Bird mother." She volunteered at Red Cross blood drives and served as a member of the Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church Altar Society. She taught us that we could be anything we wanted to be and, during the gender conscious 1950s, we were never told that we could not do something simply because we were girls. Even though at first glance she might have been considered a very traditional 1950s mom, she was anything but that. Mom said, "I just wanted to be at home with my children and we did a lot of things together." We were both well prepared when we started first grade. When kindergarten became an option in the early 1960s, Jane asked if she was going to attend. Mom told her, "Kindergarten teaches you how to socialize and get along with other children. I can get you ready for first grade." And that she did. Mom was ahead of her time, telling us, "in my day many of the girls weren't able to take care of themselves and that is why I pushed so hard for education. I think every girl ought to have an education so that she can take care of herself." Mom's next career began in 1965 when Dad's job transferred the family from Hermiston to Pendleton. Her volunteer service which began as the coordinator of the Red Cross blood program in Hermiston changed to a full-time paid position as the Executive Director of the local Red Cross in Pendleton. During her first week on the job, she was called upon to coordinate relief efforts for the 1965 Stanfield flood. Throughout her tenure, she supervised the collection and shipment of personal supplies to US soldiers serving in Vietnam, was often awakened and called to work during the night to find walk-in donors for medical emergencies, and coordinated blood drives that always met or exceeded participation goals. Mom would often tell us that her most rewarding career was with the Red Cross. Upon her retirement, she announced, "Red Cross service gets into your blood." In 1975, Mom and Dad moved to Salem, Oregon and soon after, each became licensed real estate agents. This career proved to be an excellent fit for Mom. She achieved her goal of becoming a million dollar seller during the time when the average price of a home was around $40, 000. Mary Ellen is survived by her daughters Judy Kathleen Cooley and her husband Hap of Pendleton, Oregon; and Jane Ellen Innes and her husband Greg Troin of Walla Walla; her grandchildren, Katie Cooley Corey Adam, Kevin Cooley, Max Innes Troin, James Troin Innes; great-grandsons Jacob and William Corey; her extended family; and the hundreds of friends she made throughout her long and wonderful life. She was preceded in death by her parents William and Cecilia; her sister Margaret; her brothers William and James; and her husband Jim. No one could have asked for a better mom, mother-in-law, grandmother Manny, and great-grandmother Gigi. As a devout, practicing Catholic, her beliefs guided her and helped shape her life; Mary Ellen was a shining example of what it means to be spiritual, engaging, practical, goal-oriented, and socially responsible. She passed along the importance of education, working hard, and making a difference; she touched the lives of everyone she met, and we are all the better for knowing her. We proudly carry on her legacy, and we know that our lives will be a little less bright without her living presence. We are so grateful for her long, full, and complete life; to have had the pleasure of her company; to have been able to bask under the warmth of her spirited personality; and to have had her loving care and her unconditional love. The reality is that she has simply traded in her 96-year-old body to set free the 40-year-old soul inside of her. Although we miss her greatly, we know that when we look upward into the night sky we will find the brightest star and know it is our mother, home at last and once again the life of the party, dancing in the arms of her loving husband, Jim. Private rosary service will be held on Tuesday, February 14; a Memorial Mass will be held on Wednesday, February 15, at 1:00 pm at St. Andrew's Mission. Memorials may be made to the American Red Cross, Pendleton Chapter, the Children's Museum of Eastern Oregon, or the St. Andrews Mission capital fund. Burns Mortuary of Pendleton is in charge of arrangements. Sign the online guestbook at

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Reyburn & Doris Collis
   Posted Tue February 14, 2012
What a special family and an elegant lady. What wonderful memories you will aways have. That's what life is all about

Bill & Karen Taylor
   Posted Wed February 15, 2012
I so enjoyed knowing your folks. What a wonderful and gracious lady. Pendleton is a better place to live because of Mary Ellen. Thanks, Judy for being in my class in High School.

Elizabeth Boyer
   Posted Wed February 15, 2012
Mary Ellen is a very sweet lady. My friendship to your mom is God's idea. She is heavenly's gift. Her passing away makes my heart sad. Our condolences to you and to your family and with deepest sympathy. I missed her a lot.

Mary Jane Buchanan Hutsell
   Posted Thu February 16, 2012
Jody and Jane I'm so sory for you loss. I have many memories of your parents when I was growing up in Hermiston. Our parents continued their friendship until only your mom was left.

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