Mary Alice Benedict Stahleker, a lay leader whose work with the historic Massachusetts Conference continues to influence Conference programming today, passed away peacefully on March 17.
Mary Alice chaired the strategic planning process that led the Massachusetts Conference to adopt the Vision for Renewal & Growth in 1999. She then went on to help write a proposal to the Lilly Endowment which resulted in the Conference receiving a $1.6 million grant for clergy support and development. That initial grant, and numerous renewal grants that followed, allowed for the development of networks of learning and support for clergy. Those networks, including clergy communities of practice and affinity groups, continue in the Southern New England Conference today.
"Mary Alice was a true UCCer. She believed in our (sometimes exasperating, yet brilliant) polity and how we understand 'being church,' said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor, who was called as Massachusetts Conference Minister & President during the time Stahleker was a leader. "She was warm and supportive, a hard worker and a strategic thinker. She loved God and church and lived out these loves by serving on boards and committees with equal parts patience (as one must), savvy and grit. Mary Alice made church meetings, Conference meetings fun!"
Mary Alice served as Secretary of the Massachusetts Conference and was also involved in ecumenical work through the Massachusetts Council of Churches.
Mary Alice was born December 18, 1938 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to parents Truman Glenn Benedict and Martha Daniels Benedict. They moved to Alexandria, Virginia 18 months later. Her brother Charles Truman Benedict was born on 9 July 1942. Mary Alice graduated from T.C. Williams Public High School, Alexandria, VA in 1956 and the University of Georgia in 1960. She was an Alpha Delta Pi sorority sister, and after she graduated, worked as a representative in the national Alpha Delta Pi organisation.
"Although the ecumenical environment was new to her, she was a quick study, eventually becoming the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Council of Churches," said Rev. Dr. Diane Kessler, who served as Executive Director at the time. "It was such a joy to work with her! I valued her leadership, but also her friendship, sustained well into our years of retirement.”
Mary Alice was an active member of the South Congregational Church, Christ Congregational, UCC of Brockton and later, the First Church Sandwich, UCC. She was an accomplished choir member in the Cape Cod Chorale. She also produced and directed musical theater productions, was a choir member and handbell player at her churches. The friendship, love and support of these church communities meant the world to Mary Alice and she formed many close friendships through them.
Mary Alice met Carl Stahleker on a blind date in Atlanta and they were married six weeks later on 3 August 1963. Carl adored Mary Alice, who he referred to as ‘my darlin’, and their marriage was filled with love, laughter and good times. After living in Quincy, MA, Mary Alice and Carl moved to Brockton, MA in the mid-1970s and formed many lifelong friendships there. In 1992, they moved to Plymouth, MA, where they lived until 2013.
Mary Alice and Carl enjoyed spending time on Sanibel Island, FL, where Carl’s mother had retired. Following the death of her beloved Carl in 2013, Mary Alice moved to Mashpee, MA. She was very grateful to find another community of friendship, fun and support at Southport in Mashpee and in Ocala, FL where she spent the winter months for several years.
Mary Alice applied her impressive planning and coordinating skills professionally as an Executive Assistant to the CFO of Tech/Ops, Inc. for most of her professional life, until she retired in 1995. Mary Alice loved planning the annual charity auction fund raiser at First Church Sandwich, her extensive travels with friends, and social events, which often had themes and always creative decorations.
Mary Alice is survived by her nephews Richard Benedict (Richard Weinstein) and Dean Benedict (Mischa Benedict and children Dansby, Celia and Culver Benedict.)
Mary Alice was a loyal and selflessly giving friend, a role model to many people of different ages and circumstances, and always the most fun person to be around.
Mary Alice would want everyone to remember all the happy times together. At her request there will not be a funeral or memorial service. In lieu of gifts, please make donations to the Cotuit Center for the Arts at https://artsonthecape.org/donate or Mashpee Scholarship Foundation Trust, c/o Sean Egan, PO Box 1284, Mashpee, MA 02649, both of which she passionately supported. Please make note of Mary Alice Stahleker’s full name on your checks or donations.
Find her obituary here.