Every time someone told Mary Brett, “You don’t look like the mother of eleven,” she always laughed and said, “What’s the mother of eleven supposed to look like?”
Mary Brett was more than the mother of eleven children.
The former Ravenna city councilwoman passed away on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. She was 86.
Mary served more than 30 years as the sacristan at Immaculate Conception Church before she retired in 2012. She opened the church, changed the candles and tended the flowers. She cleaned the altar and prayed for everyone in Ravenna, especially for her neighbors on Sycamore Street, where she lived for more than 60 years.
Before that, Mary worked as a night court clerk at the Portage County Municipal Court. She processed drunks and others arrested by sheriff deputies, police and state patrol. She said the worst behaved people were the drunken women.
Her life was defined by faith, family and love of country.
Mary was the perfect name for this woman of faith who was born in 1930 on Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption. No matter what difficulties life brought her, she always had faith, a faith that carried her all through life.
She was born in Czechoslovakia but grew up in Portage County where her parents, John and Julia Kerecman, had little money and moved often. When she was young, her three brothers went off to fight World War II. She was 11 when the war started and in 11th grade when it ended. Mary was left alone on a farm with Slovak parents who couldn’t read or write English. She read the telegrams to them announcing her brother, Charles was a P.O.W. in Germany. He returned safely home three years later.
Mary graduated from Freedom School in 1948. While working as a nurse’s aide at Robinson Memorial Hospital, she met a handsome bachelor named Tom Brett. She accidentally on purpose burned him with a hot water bottle to get his attention. They married a year later.
Her greatest legacy was her 11 children. She was their nurse, teacher, chef, personal shopper, counselor, referee and guidance counselor. She was also Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy.
Mary transformed Jell-O into desserts, salads and main courses. She washed mountains of laundry, creased the pleats in endless Catholic school uniforms and squeezed blouses through a wringer washer in water so hot her hands stayed red for hours. She pinned 11 babies up in diapers, the cloth kind you had to rinse in the toilet. She made holidays more magical by opening her home to countless friends her children brought home from college.
Mary crocheted stars and angels for the Christmas trees, afghans for college couches, and scarves for strangers who needed warmth. Her children feasted on freshly baked Irish bread, nut rolls, Danish pastries and pig in the blankets.
She taught them how to change a diaper without poking the baby, how to test a bottle to see when it was just right, and how to dance the polka in the living room.
She loved Ravenna and walked everywhere. When people asked why she didn’t use her car more often, she said, “God gave me two feet before he gave me a car.”
She volunteered with the Chamber of Commerce, was a home health aide and attended Ravenna High School football games even after her kids graduated.
Next to church, her favorite place was a tie: Deluxe Pastry shop or Guido's Pizza.
Before she retired, she helped buy the holy family statue for the church. She couldn’t afford the whole thing, so she paid for Jesus. She often called him her 12th child.
When her health began to fail, she moved into Light of Hearts Villa in Bedford where the staff fell in love with “Miss Mary.” Her son, Tom, ordered business cards so her Ravenna friends would have her new address. He added these words: Mother of 11 waiting on Heaven.
While she waited, Mary attended daily Mass, prayed the rosary daily and crocheted slippers for poor children, hats for the homeless and prayer shawls for cancer patients.
Calling hours will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, November 11, at the Wood-Kortright-Borkoski Funeral Home, 703 E. Main St., Ravenna.
The funeral Mass will be 10 a.m Saturday at Immaculate Conception Church in Ravenna.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Immaculate Conception Church or to Light of Hearts Villa in Bedford.
Mary joins her husband, Thomas A. Brett, who preceded her in death in 1999.
Mary is survived by her 11 children, Theresa and Tom (Raithel) of Evansville, Indiana; Joan of Phoenix, Az.; Michael and Chris (Jacobs) of Columbus; Mary Jo of Columbus; Regina and Bruce (Hennes) of Cleveland; Thomas P. and Tish of Windham; Maureen and Andrew (Pearson) of Bridgewater, Va.; Patricia and Thomas (Butcher) of New York, NY.; Mark and Anita of East Lansing, MI; Jim and Michelle of Rockville, Md.; and Matthew of Chicago.
Mary leaves behind 15 grandchildren: Gabrielle Brett and James (Sullivan); Rachel and Geof (Pelaia), Michael, Leah and Luke; Laura and Erin Pearson; Harry Brett-Butcher; Jaclyn, Emily, Hudson, Josiah and Anya; Jacob and Christopher.
She also had four great grandchildren: Asher, Ainsley and River Sullivan and Jack Pelaia.
Mary was a member of Beta Sorosis and served on the Visiting Nurses Association Board. She will be missed by her loving family, neighbors and community at Light of Hearts.
Donations can be made to Immaculate Conception Church in Ravenna or to Light of Hearts at 283 Union St., Bedford, Ohio 44146.