On Monday, 23rd January, 2023, Jesus took Mary Lee gently by the hand and led her to her heavenly home. She passed peacefully while asleep at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton. The prayers received during her 11 week hospitalization uplifted and held the entire family. Thank you.
Mary Lee Merle Wilson McKenna was born September 5th, 1947, in Woodstock, New Brunswick, to Ronald and Catherine Wilson (née Christenson). After his first wife passed, Ron married Florence Bell, and Mary Lee grew up in a large family, with five brothers and a sister.
Standing at 5’2” for most of her life, Mary Lee played guard for her high school basketball team, which says a lot about her character: a young woman who was full of perseverance and determination. Music played a pivotal role in her life from a young age; one of her earliest memories was listening while her grandmother played the piano and her father and his siblings sang multi-part harmonies of traditional hymns. Her home church encouraged and supported her musicality, and her beautiful voice was heard at events throughout Woodstock. She pursued a career in music, graduating from Acadia University with a music degree and going on to study at the University of Toronto’s opera school with a full scholarship.
Mary Lee’s Christian faith was also deeply rooted in her life. After her time in Toronto, she returned to the Maritimes and studied for her Masters in chaplaincy at Acadia’s Divinity College under the guidance of Dr. Charles Taylor. She did chaplaincy work in the field of mental health and in the prison system as part of her training. She was an accomplished organist and music director in both the United Baptist Convention and the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton. After marrying the love of her life, the Rev’d Canon Bruce McKenna, they enjoyed 37 years of joint and mutual ministry, which continued into their retirement. Her last position, post retirement, was as an interim music director for St. John the Evangelist Church in Fredericton. Their daughter, Catherine, remembers a home full of love, much laughter, and music. Mary Lee always had time and space to listen and support her daughter, no matter how busy things were.
Teaching was another of Mary Lee’s gifts. She taught voice for many years, with some students going on to become recognized artists in their own right. She was the music coordinator for the school district of Fredericton while also working for the provincial Department of Education. She taught in Fredericton and Oxford, England, and in Saint John she was a much beloved high school teacher, who ran four choirs and directed the music for the high school’s musical productions. Her love of music was infectious, and she inspired many students.
Mary Lee’s effervescence and joie-de-vivre, along with her enthusiasm and warmth, drew people in. At different points in her life, she co-founded Koinonia, a ministry for young women at Christ Church (Parish) Church; co-founded Opera New Brunswick, which promoted New Brunswick vocalists and gave them a platform to come home and share their talent with local audiences; co-led several women’s Bible Studies; and was part of a team that organized events to build emotional and practical supports for parents of disabled children. At the heart of it all was a deep, deep love for the people around her, which she shared freely and is a major part of her legacy. We’ve been told, “She loved well,” and we think that sums it up nicely.
Mary Lee is survived by husband, Bruce; daughter, Catherine; brothers, Gary (Gwen) Wilson, Stephen (Terry) Wilson, Brent (Marie) Wilson, Kent Wilson; sister-in-law, Carole Lavigne-Wilson, and sister Annette Wilson. She is predeceased by father, Ronald Wilson, mothers, Florence and Catherine (née Bell and Christenson), brother, Andrew Wilson, and nephew, Peter Archibald.
Bruce and Catherine want to extend their deepest thanks to the hospital staff, especially those working in the ER, 3 East, and 4 East. During her 11 week stay at the DECH, Mary Lee received warm, caring, and professional care from everyone from the cleaning and food services staff to doctors, technicians, nurses, LPNs, and personal care assistants. We are most grateful. Our deepest thanks is also extended to Andrew, Theresa, Hannah, and the rest of the team at McAdam’s Funeral Home for their caring guidance during this difficult time.
Visitation will be held on Friday, February 3rd, 2023 at St. John’s the Evangelist Church, 75 Main St, Fredericton, NB from 6:00 -8:00 PM. The Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, February 4th, 2023 at 2:00 PM with Rev. Paul Ranson and The Ven. Cathy Laskey officiating.A link to a livestream of the service will be available at https://www.75mainstreet.org/. Interment will be at a later date. The family request wearing of masks in honor of those, like Mary Lee, who are among the most vulnerable in our society for COVID19.
Donations can be made in lieu of flowers: (1) St. John the Evangelist, 75 Main Street, Fredericton, New Brunswick E3A 1C2 (www.75mainstreet.org, scroll to bottom of page, red button “Support St. John’s”, or e-transfer at firstname.lastname@example.org ); (2) Acadia Divinity College in support of the Charles J. Taylor Center for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care (acadiadiv.ca, giving, give now, designation, other, type in “Charles and Charlotte Taylor Fund for Clinical Pastoral Education and Prison Ministry”); (3) Camp Medley, Diocese of Fredericton, 168 Church Street, Fredericton, E3B 4C9 (nb.anglican.ca, donate, choose from options “Camp Medley”) or to a charity of the donor’s choice. If you would like to share a memory of Mary Lee with Catherine and Bruce in the weeks/months to come, please send them, with our thanks, to email@example.com.