Her youngest and only surviving sibling, Janet Otto of Hagerstown, was 12 years younger and said Mary was like a mother to her.
Janet was just 6 when Mary married Roscoe Shifler of Mount Carmel on her 19th birthday. Mary was about 14 when she met Roscoe, who was six years older, at the Boonsboro dental office of Dr. Lakin.
Janet vividly recalls what her older sister wore for her wedding.
“I remember her dress,” Janet said. “It was a blue dress with long sleeves. There was a print on the sleeve and she wore a hat. Oh, she was all dressed up.”
“My father used to say if she had good teeth, she would have stayed single,” only child Sandra “Sandy” Shifler said. She said her mother’s family calls her Sandra and she’s known as Sandy by her father’s side.
Mary and Roscoe were married in the parsonage of Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ in Boonsboro in 1934 and honeymooned in Atlantic City, N.J. Mary became a member of the church at that time.
Mary attended the Reno School through the eighth grade, then went to work in Boonsboro to help take care of someone who had broken their arm, Sandy said.
After the couple married, they moved to a house on Main Street in Boonsboro, where they lived until Sandy was in second grade, then settled into a home on Lakin Avenue.
They loved sitting on the porch and greeting people as they walked by, earning Roscoe, who occasionally smoked cigars on the porch, the nickname “Mayor of Lakin Avenue.”
Sandy remembers her mother’s good cooking, which included Christmas feasts, home canned goods, fruit pies and snow creams in the winter. Mary also was known for her garden and flowers.
“Mother liked to dig in the dirt,” Sandy said.
“She cooked and gardened and sewed. The cooking, sewing gardener — that was Mary,” said Karen Cunningham, a longtime neighborhood friend who was born a day before Sandy in 1947.
Several of Mary’s jobs involved sewing, although Sandy said her mother didn’t sew clothes for them, just did mending. She also was known for her embroidered pillowcases.
Mary sewed awnings at Thomas and Sons Awning in Boonsboro and as a seamstress at Western Maryland Hospital, retiring in 1978.
She also worked at Eyerly’s Department Store in Hagerstown while Roscoe served overseas with the U.S. Army during World War II and during the holidays.
Sandy said a college friend of hers considered Mary a second mother. Sandy graduated from Towson College, then had a 30-year teaching career at Norwood Elementary School in Dundalk, Md. Mary was 91 when she gave up driving when Sandy moved back to Boonsboro in 2006.
Sandy said her parents were both proud of her since neither of them graduated from high school or college and wanted more for their daughter.
Karen said she had several memories of Mary, including seeing her walk to and from work at the awning company every day, as well as at lunchtime. She said they would rope off Lakin Avenue when it snowed and that Mary would make hot chocolate for the sledders.
She also remembers watching Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 at the Shiflers’ house since Karen’s family didn’t have a television.
Roscoe drove a bread truck and his route included Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. He bought the family’s appliances from a store there, Sandy said.
Mary and Roscoe moved to a cottage at Fahrney-Keedy Home & Village in Boonsboro in 1998, where she also volunteered, when Mary no longer could manage the stairs.
Roscoe died about a year later, having retired as a security guard from Fort Detrick in 1974. Mary died 13 years later, to the day.
Mary loved to play cards, especially the game 500. She went to card parties at the Women’s Club in Hagerstown and at Fahrney-Keedy. The couple also played cards with neighborhood and church friends.
Sandy said her parents didn’t travel a lot, but she remembers trips during her childhood to Ocean City, Md., and to Ohio to visit her mother’s relatives. There were 22 nieces and nephews on both sides of the family.
The Shiflers preferred being at home and having people in.
“She entertained a good bit — Christmas, New Year’s Eve, open houses. There was always food involved,” Sandy said.
Mary cooked Christmas dinner until she was 90 and liked to prepare food for ill neighbors at Fahrney-Keedy, as well as bake cookies for church bake sales. She also volunteered for 30 years for the American Red Cross, helping whenever there was a blood drive in Boonsboro.
Sandy said her mother was terribly afraid of thunderstorms, which would prompt her to take cover in a closet or stairwell. When Roscoe was working nights and a storm hit, Mary would wake Sandy up to keep her company and sit on the steps away from the windows.
Mary was frugal, but liked to dress up, Sandy said. As a child, she dreaded going with her mother to Fleischers in Hagerstown for hats because she considered it boring.
“She liked to dress nice. Always hats and those horrible furs,” Sandy said of Mary’s fur wraps, which were the style then.
Mary also was loyal to her hairstylist and went weekly to have her hair done by Martha Gish for 39 years, from the very first week she started doing hair until she retired.
“I will remember her with great fondness,” Martha wrote in a sympathy card to Sandy.
Mary enjoyed good health, despite a few bumps along the way. She broke both wrists in January 2000, but bounced back. Last year, Mary moved to the village’s nursing home after tripping over edging while watering her garden and breaking her leg.
Then, a few months later in November 2011, she broke her left hip. Besides Sandy, her constant companion through it all was her beloved cat, Callie, who now resides with Sandy and her three cats.
“Really, she was active as best she could until Labor Day. She was a great lady,” Karen said.
Sandy wrote a letter to her mother that was read by the minister at Mary’s funeral, thanking her mother for always being there and providing guidance and encouragement. She also shared “Mary’s Life Lessons” — always do your best, be kind to others, follow through on your responsibilities and most important, make every day count, as there might not be a tomorrow.
“You were always working, but never too busy to take time out for Daddy and me. You were the glue that kept the family together,” Sandy wrote.
“P.S. Your Callie is fine and has made peace with the grandcats.”
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Mary L. Shifler, who died Oct. 3 at the age of 97. Her obituary was published in the Oct. 5 edition of The Herald-Mail.