The art of the obituary: Mary Dodd Stalling

The Austin American Statesman reminds us that a life well lived can consist of running from a subpoena, a schoolteacher named Fancy, and integrating the record store business in a Texas town.

Mary Dodd Stalling, 91, died peacefully on May 30, 2015. Born November 21, 1923, she was adopted into the Dodd family and raised in Victoria, Texas. After graduating from The University of Texas she headed west to San Francisco in search of a more accepting environment.

Adopting the pseudonym Margot, she worked in the vibrant yet often hostile pre-Stonewall San Francisco nightclub scene. A waitress at Tommy’s Place, she witnessed an infamous police raid based on orchestrated charges of serving alcohol to a minor, as described in Nan Alamilla Boyd’s Wide Open Town. Margot went into hiding to avoid a subpoena from the politically motivated prosecution, and a jury acquitted the bartender, her girlfriend Joyce Vandeveer, of any wrongdoing. Eventually the minor was convicted of perjury, but not before the owner of Tommy’s Place served a year in jail and lost her license to sell alcohol, the first ever issued to a woman in that region.

Somewhere along the way Mary Dodd married a longtime bachelor named Stalling, to the apparent satisfaction of both families. After a respectable period of time, the marriage of convenience was quietly terminated.

Mary Dodd returned to Austin, Texas in 1960 where she developed innumerable friendships with people from all walks of life. She met and lived happily with her beloved Fancy, a local school teacher, for over 20 years. Although Austin was then racially segregated, Mary Dodd and Fancy operated the city’s first integrated record store, Congress Avenue Records, which served all members of the community. After Fancy’s untimely death to cancer, Mary Dodd found companionship in her friends and the menagerie of pets she considered her children. She worked tirelessly for animal rescue organizations and was an avid fan of The University of Texas Women’s Basketball Program. She mixed a good drink and threw a great party.

As she struggled with dementia in her later years, her care was supervised by her dear friend, Stephen Labranche, who preceded her in death by a few weeks.

A gift to a no-kill animal shelter or rescue organization would greatly honor Mary Dodd’s memory.

(h/t: Bill Childs)

On the subject of great obituaries, I happily pass along (copy?) this Facebook post by MPR’s Cathy Wurzer today.

There are several obits in today’s Star Tribune that really make me wish I would’ve have met these departed souls. One woman, Lucy of Plymouth, died at age 83 of Alzheimer’s and she entertained the staff at her care facility by yodeling and fun sense of humor, plus she was escorted out of church services several times because she’d sing too loudly and off key. (I say good for Lucy!)

James,who was 83 and from Bloomington, enjoyed many things such as dancing with his daughter, singing the old 40’s hits, listening to the Four Freshman and watching IU basketball and Packers football. He was also a great cook making Greek and Italian food.

Always read the obits!