“…The time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the Faith. From now on the Crown of Righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the Just Judge, will award to me on that day…” — 2 Timothy 4: 6-8
Suddenly, the world will never, ever be the same.
Mary K. Hanneman stepped gently into eternity Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, after a long struggle with vascular dementia and congestive heart failure. Our Blessed Lord summoned his precious daughter, my mother, at 11:50 p.m. from her home at Brookdale Senior Living. She was 86 years 2 months and 5 days young. Mary was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and longtime Catholic school teacher in Sun Prairie, where she has lived since 1965.
Mary Katherine Mulqueen was born in Cudahy, Wisconsin, on Oct. 21, 1932 — the seventh of 11 children of Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. and the former Margaret Madonna Dailey. On Aug. 9, 1958, she married David Dion Hanneman at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee, beginning a more than 49-year marriage. He preceded her in death on April 14, 2007. He was 74.
For Mary, every day was a good day to teach. She had the heart of an educator, the discipline and courage of a gunnery sergeant and, under it all, the strong yet soft heart of an Irish grandmother. Above the entrance to her kitchen hung a sign that read Failte, — an Irish welcome. Over the years, countless relatives, friends and strangers were welcomed within those walls to incredible cooking, good cheer and, very likely, a game or two of sheepshead, Kings in the Corner or cribbage.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward.
Like most things in the Hanneman family, good teaching started at home. Mary’s kitchen table was just as likely to serve up arithmetic flash cards and sentence diagrams as it did Thanksgiving turkeys or chocolate chip cookies. She imparted many life lessons in her kitchen, from the academic (long division and phonics) to the culinary (corned beef with cabbage, lasagna and state-fair-quality bread and cinnamon rolls). Through the chaos and bustle of the annual Thanksgiving dinner, we came to appreciate the gift of family — warts and all.
Mary’s academic career began at St. Frederick’s Catholic School in Cudahy and St. Mary’s Academy in St. Francis, from which she graduated high school in 1950. After a brief postsecondary discernment at the suburban Franciscan convent, she took courses at Cardinal Stritch College and Marquette University. She studied reading literacy for elementary students for two years in Madison. Mary began practice teaching in the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She eventually became a full-time teacher in the newly built 17-room St. Veronica Catholic School on East Norwich Avenue in Milwaukee.
After their marriage in 1958, Mary and Dave moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he held a job with E.R. Squibb & Co. She paused her teaching career to start and raise a family that came to include two boys and two girls. As a doctorate-level domestic engineer, she honed her skills wrangling hungry toddlers through the bedlam of birthday parties, sewing costumes, darning socks and hosting couples’ bridge. She set high standards for her children and expected them to reach even higher. Especially at school. She modeled her own saintly mother’s family virtuosity with things like bunny-shaped birthday cakes topped with coconut flakes and jellybeans. Or trips to Devil’s Lake and Storybook Gardens with four children in tow.
Mary learned her lessons well from “Ma,” Margaret M. Mulqueen. Her mother went out of her way to make family events special for her husband Earl, who lost both of his parents young and was denied most of childhood’s delectations. “Every year, we always celebrated Christmas. My mother made Christmas really special,” Mary said in an oral-history interview with granddaughter Ruby in 2009. “But especially his birthday. He never had a birthday cake growing up. Isn’t that sad? And yet grew up to be such a nice man.”
In 1965 Mary and Dave built their dream home in Sun Prairie’s then-new Royal Oaks neighborhood. Seventeen stately oak trees towered over the property. Much love went into building and maintaining the family homestead that stayed in the Hanneman family for 53 years. She spent those years caring for her family with special birthday meals, wonderful Christmas mornings and a thrifty way with money that allowed her and Dave to put four children through Madison Edgewood High School.
In 1980, Mary resumed her teaching career at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic School. She started as a substitute, but before long was a full-time reading specialist. She helped along the students who otherwise would fall behind. It was her passion to teach reading, and she opened the world of books to many hundreds of children. Students came to Mrs. Hanneman for extra help in reading, math and other subjects. She sent them back with the skills and desire to learn. Her career at Sacred Hearts stretched nearly three decades. Even after retirement, Mary tutored students several days a week for many years.
When her husband was dying of cancer in 2006 and 2007, she helped make his last wish come true. The couple donated four sections of beautiful stained-glass windows back to St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, where they were incorporated into the design of a new wing of the hospital that opened in 2007.
Her penultimate lessons were largely delivered in the silence of advancing dementia, which eventually crippled her ability to think clearly and communicate verbally. Yet she showed patience in this frustrating infirmity. If she could not form the words to say what was on her mind, she sighed deeply and simply said, “Oh, dear.” As illness struck its blows through a heart attack and repeated cardiac events, she rallied time and again to regain strength and show a smile. When hospice nurse Heidi leaned close and told Mary it was almost Christmas, she smiled and said, “I love Christmas.”
Mary’s final and lasting lesson was delivered over days of speechless suffering. Her body conspired to drain her energy. Yet she trusted. She lay still. She prayed. During her final hour, she opened her eyes, lifted her head and looked intently — at something. She tried to speak, but words were not needed. The look of awe on her face explained it all: she had a glimpse of Heaven. All things would soon be new. That realization was reflected on her face. It was her final gift. She spoke in deeds what words could not say:
My work here is complete. My struggles were never in vain. Even in my brokenness, my trials fit in His design and served His redemptive plans. Watch! Hold fast to your Catholic faith — and you will one day follow me.
Mary is survived by her children: David (Lisa) Hanneman of Naperville, Ill., Joe Hanneman of Sun Prairie, Margret Mary of DeForest, Amy Bozza of Woodstock, Ill.; and special niece, Laura (Doug) Curzon of New Berlin, Wis. She is further survived by nine grandchildren: Abby, Maggie and Charlie Hanneman; Stevie, Samantha and Ruby Hanneman; and Justin, Kyle and Claire Bozza. She leaves two sisters, Ruth (Tom) McShane and Joan (Dick) Haske, both of Cudahy; a sister-in-law, Elaine Hanneman of Minneapolis; and brother-in-law Gordon Wellman of Sun Prairie. She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents and eight brothers and sisters.
A visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 at Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home, 302 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon Saturday, Jan. 5 at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church, 227 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. Monsignor Duane Moellenberndt will preside. Burial will be at Sacred Hearts Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Sacred Hearts School Endowment Fund, 221 Columbus St., Sun Prairie, WI 53590.
11 thoughts on “A Final Lesson Imparted, Then Heavenward”
You certainly have a gift for writing Joe. You’ve done your mother proud.
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Thanks very much, Eileen. This is one that wrote itself, born out of adrenaline, grief and exhaustion.
Apparently this was your mother…. so sorry to hear about her passing, but now she’s at peace! Cherish the memories! Accept my sympathy… Sue Alft
The Journey is the Reward!
Thank you, Sue. Yes, this is about my mother. I do have many memories to cherish and share.
Joe, I have tried printing the obit of your mother with no avail. Can you send it to me by e-mail or an attachment? Shirley
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Hi Shirley, I certainly will. I’ll make a PDF so you can easily print it at home.
Our deepest sympathy, Joe, on the passing of your mother. She is at peace now.
Thank you, Lavinia!
God bless you Joe. Being there during her last days was so spiritual for you. Continue to gain strength from the same God that she returned to
Thank you, Bob. Very much appreciated.