Mary Dehn VanDessel passed away peacefully on March 26, 2023, at The Heritage Regency in Sun City West, AZ where she had resided for the past year and a half.
Mary was born in Mineola, NY to Anna J. McMahon Dehn and Joseph W. Dehn, Sr. on February 4, 1935. She is preceded in death by her parents and siblings, Joseph W. Dehn Jr., James T. Dehn, Sr., and Anne Dehn MacDonald.
Mary spent her childhood in Great Neck, Long Island, NY. She was raised with a strong Catholic faith and her early education included St. Aloysius in Great Neck. She made lifelong friends in these early years and shared many of the same activities like Girl Scouts and Mariner Scouts. Upon graduation from high school, she attended The College of New Rochelle, the oldest women’s college in New York, founded by the Ursuline Order, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. She was drawn by the value of teaching young women in Ursuline schools - schools which educate and inspire young women to become wise, active, globally minded leaders by cultivating lifelong learning, spiritual growth, integrity, respect for all, and dedicated to service. She joined the Ursuline Order after college to teach and to serve. During those years she taught Math and earned a master’s degree.
Mary enjoyed her years in the convent, but after thirteen years, she decided to pursue another path. She returned to Great Neck and began teaching Math and Calculus in two of the Great Neck public high schools. According to her nephew George, she was a "beloved teacher". In summertime, she expanded her world and traveled with friends. She loved opportunities to explore new places and meet new people.
In her late thirties, Mary met the love of her life, Harry VanDessel. Eventually, they decided to move from the busy northeast to a calmer southwest lifestyle in Sun City West, AZ. Harry played lots of golf while Mary continued pursuing her teaching career. She shared her gift of teaching with soldiers at Luke Air Force Base, community college students, and provided GED classes for prisoners. She found these experiences very rewarding. Mary's life of service also included helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity, bringing food to the local food banks, and serving her church in a variety of ministries.
She was a devoted caregiver to Harry when he developed cancer, and she explored every avenue to help him. When he passed, she grieved her great loss, but continued her mission of service to the church and her community.
Mary had a passion for music and a love of singing. She shared her joy of singing in three church choirs in addition to the community choirs, West Valley Chorale and Masterworks Chorale. She was an avid patron and board member of the West Valley Symphony. She made many dear friends in her community through music and through her many ministries in the church.
Mary was devoted to her family and friends. She often said that she had two families, one on the east coast where most of the Dehn family resided and her beloved Arizona family, the McGraws, with whom she shared a deep and abiding friendship. She loved adventure and traveled the globe, forming a special and long-lasting kinship with Irish relatives.
Although Mary had no children of her own, she often said that her nieces, nephews, and grand nieces and nephews were her "spiritual "children. She attended every Baptism, First Communion, and Wedding. It gave her great happiness to meet and hold a new baby in her arms, serve as godmother, or sing at one of their weddings. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Rosemary Dehn, and by nieces and nephews, Joseph Dehn III, George Dehn, Elaine MacDonald, Robert MacDonald, Jr (deceased), Bill MacDonald, Dede Dehn Matrangola, Jim Dehn, Jr., Mickey Dehn, and their spouses, children, many relatives, and friends.
Rest in peace Mary. You are forever loved by all who were privileged to know you.
A funeral mass will take place Saturday, April 22, 2023, at 10:00am at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 19002 N. 128th Ave. Sun City West, AZ 85375.
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