Mary Staebler, 92, Head Start director, hospice volunteer, made legendary Christmas cookies

By on November 21, 2017

Mary Staebler, 92, of Lititz, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Nov. 15, 2017.

She was born on May 31, 1925, to Pierre and Adele Brulte of Philadelphia.

During the Depression, the family relocated to the Flushing Queens section of New York City, where she graduated from Flushing High School (1943) and Queens College (BA summa cum laude, 1947).

She met her husband Richard Staebler (d. 2010) on a blind date at the Commodore Bar in NYC in the fall of 1946. They were engaged in late 1947 and married on Feb. 4, 1950, one week after Richard’s college graduation from RPI. They were married for 60 years.

They lived in Fanwood, N.J. (twice), and New Berlin, Wisc., before finally settling in Lancaster in 1964. After devoting many years to her family, Mary began work outside the home in 1967 at Head Start of Lancaster, serving as its director from 1969 to 1972. Her next career was in medical office administration. In retirement she volunteered at Lancaster’s Hospice and Community Care, where she logged thousands of hours in both the office and in-patient facility. In 2013, she was honored by Hospice as one of three inductees in their first class of Emeritus Volunteers.

One of her passions was travel, which she dove into after her children graduated from college and Richard retired. Among her international destinations were China, Japan, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Scandinavia, Holland, Mallorca, Italy, France and the Loire Valley. She also traveled from coast to coast in the United States. She particularly enjoyed being on the ocean in both North Carolina (Debourdeau) and Maine (Olgunquit) and in the National Parks.

She enjoyed playing tennis, especially doubles, giving it up only at age 75 when she said she just couldn’t get to enough balls anymore. While she never overpowered an opponent, every ball she got to was always returned over the net, earning her the nickname “the human ball machine.”

She was an accomplished cook, able to please and impress everyone, from fussy children to adults with sophisticated tastes. Her Christmas cookies were legendary. She was an expert with plants, from table bouquets to potted plants large and small. She made beautiful landscapes in deep shade and unfriendly soil. Her sewing and other handicrafts were beautifully designed and executed. She displayed the logical side of her brain by playing bridge enthusiastically and expertly until very recently. At Moravian Manor, she took part in the book club, devouring and discussing long, serious books, particularly on American history.

She is survived by her son, David, his wife Deborah Burnham, and granddaughter, Elizabeth Staebler in Philadelphia; and her daughter Victoria, husband Jerome Shanahan, and grandson Alec Shanahan in Concord, Mass.

Services will be private.

For those who wish, the family requests charitable donations be made in her honor and memory to The Moravian Manor Benevolent Fund, 300 W. Lemon St., Lititz, PA 17543-2398, or

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