Mary Claire led a rich and full life. She was, to state the obvious, a self-professed party girl who knew how to have fun better than just about anyone on the planet. We used to joke that there wasn’t a person in the State of Texas who she didn’t know. She was witty, funny, sweet, solicitous of other’s feelings, a great friend, a dedicated science teacher. Her athletic abilities were the envy of many, and she was an avid sports and, especially, basketball fan. She was fearless as a child, spunky as an adult. She not only made every family gathering more fun but also was the family peacemaker, the one who wanted no talk of politics or other potentially contentious subjects so that everyone would just get along.
In many ways, Mary Claire was at her best during the last two years of her life, when she faced a devastating diagnosis with grace, courage, optimism and humor. During her stints at MD Anderson in Houston, she charmed pretty much everyone she encountered. In between chemotherapy and other treatments, she threw herself into life, reveling in a deepened closeness with her family, new life experiences and her new sobriety, of which she was extremely and rightfully proud. Just two weeks ago, while hospitalized in Houston, Mary Claire told one of her caregivers, “When I wake up in the morning, I don’t think, ‘I’ve got cancer.’ I think, what am I going to do with this day?”
Mary Claire was born August 27, 1958. She spent her first years in Falls City but grew up mostly in Kenedy, where she was part of a neighborhood gang of children that included her sister Julia and where she developed life-long friendships. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in education and taught in Pleasanton, San Antonio and Austin before meeting and marrying Michael Luce of Beeville. She retired from her position as a seventh-grade science teacher at Moreno Junior High School in Beeville in 2013. She was a member of the teaching sorority Delta Gamma Kappa.
Survivors include her husband, Michael Luce; her mother, Claire Nieschwietz Chesnutt; her siblings and their spouses Jane Chesnutt and Mallory Rintoul, Clark and Linda Chesnutt, Rachel and Larry Blasdell and Julia and Steve Dutton; and her especially cherished nieces and nephews, Michael, Sara and Emily Blasdell, along with Michael’s daughter Luci; Ashley and Nick Dutton and Jeff and Richard Herring. She also is survived by her father-in-law, Lester Luce, sister-in-law Sharon Luce and brother-in-law and wife Richard and Linda Luce.
Throughout Mary Claire’s illness, she received wonderful care at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the family would like to thank in particular Ralph Zinner, M.D. and his team, Apostolia M. Tsimberidou, M.D., Ph.D., and Jennifer Dempsey, P.A., for their extraordinarily skilled and sensitive care. We also are deeply grateful to Mary Claire’s caregivers in the last week of her life, Connie Kelley, Tammy Montgomery, Bill Reeves and Ida Snow.
In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to: MD Anderson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 4486, Houston TX 77210-4486; www.mdanderson.org/gifts. Please include Mary Claire’s name with your donation.
Visitation was from 1 to 6 pm on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Charlie Marshall Funeral Home, 814 East Main Street, Rockport TX, with the family receiving friends and family from 4 to 6 pm.
Funeral services were held Saturday, March 29, 2014, at 1:00 pm at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Rockport, Texas. Private family burial followed.
Mary Claire was a joy. She had the time of her life and was the light of ours.