Mary Evelyn Blanford

The active and joy-filled life of Mary Evelyn Blanford came peacefully to an end June 21, 2011, at home with family present.  She was 93.  A thirty year resident of New Haven, Connecticut, Mary was formerly of Cedar Falls, Iowa (1946-1982).

Daughter of William Lloyd Nay and Marjory Olive (Letsinger) Nay, and sister of Charles William Nay (deceased), Mary Evelyn was born in Indianapolis on January 30,1918.  She grew up in southern Indiana and graduated from Danville, Indiana, High School in 1936.

Mary Evelyn won a typing competition and subsequent scholarship that formed the basis of her lifelong career teaching business and office technologies at high school and college levels.  A graduate of Central Normal College, Class of 1938, Mary Evelyn married James Tracy Blanford in 1940.  They both finished Master's degrees at Indiana University in 1942.  Jim became a Navy Ensign in 1943.  The couple lived in several US cities during Jim's U. S. naval service.  Mary Evelyn returned to Indiana to teach during Jim's service in the Pacific.  In 1946 the couple moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where Jim and later Mary obtained teaching positions and raised their family.

From 1947 through 1982, Mary taught at the Iowa State Teachers College (University of Northern Iowa) and attained tenured Assistant Professor status.  Mary Evelyn befriended many former students as their careers advanced, and friendships with valued colleagues continued until her death.  She was a member of the American Association of University Women, and the U.N.I. Emeritus Association.  Mary developed dear lifelong friendships in Cedar Falls, years rich with family, work, civic, school, and social activities.  Mary was widowed in 1980.  She retired from U.N. I. and moved to New Haven, Connecticut, to live near her daughter Tracy and family.

In 1986, Mary Evelyn, Tracy, and Rodney Palmer purchased the home they shared until her death.  Mary Evelyn was always independent but played an important role in the Blanford-Palmer family life, assisting extensively in the care of grandchildren Stephen, and later Shannon in their early years.  Mary remained close to her grandchildren and enjoyed sharing in their lives as they grew into adulthood.  Mary Evelyn enjoyed extensive travel in her retirement; Letsinger family reunions trips, regular visits to Iowa and Indiana, and several trips abroad.  An avid reader, Mary belonged to two book groups, supported the Fair Haven Public Library, and enjoyed delving into family genealogy.

As a dedicated P.E.O. member, Mary fervently supported continuing education opportunities for women.  Mary thoroughly enjoyed playing and studying bridge, first in college, and then in a "Couples Club" in Cedar Falls.  She made many great bridge friends in Connecticut.  She remained a formidable bridge competitor until her recent illness this spring.  Daily, Mary enjoyed birdlife on her deck, family pets and dogs romping in the yard, and seasonal changes viewed from her apartment.  Never one to stay home long, Mary remained deaf to the pleas of her children to give up the keys to her car.  She enjoyed outings of all kinds--browsing antique stores for past memories, shopping, movies, having her hair done, or sharing a meal or sweet treat out with friends were all valued activities.

Mary Evelyn took great pleasure in maintaining active contact with friends and family, sharing their interests, and connecting people with one another.  She was always willing to lend a hand to someone in need and firmly believed that all problems could be solved or improved upon with the right effort.

Mary Evelyn leaves a wealth of family and friends throughout the U. S., as well as immediate family Bruce, Tom, Bill, and Tracy Blanford; son-in law Rodney Palmer; grandchildren Stephen and Shannon.   We will all miss her dearly.  A memorial celebration will be held July 30, 2011, 11AM, at First & Summerfield United Methodist Church, 425 College Street, New Haven, Connecticut.  Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers to support the P.E.O. Educational Fund for Women or the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation can be sent to Tracy or made directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Copyright New Haven Register on-line edition; downloaded October 12, 2011.


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675
Telephone: (319)-273-6307
Fax: (319)-273-2913
Email: Gerald.Peterson@uni.edu