Dearborn woman known for her generosity and love of family died of COVID-19 – Detroit Free Press

This obituary is part of “We Will Remember,” a series about those we’ve lost to the coronavirus.

Mary Ellen Murray’s attributes were not limited to hospitality, attentiveness and her sense of humor. She was also a generous individual who volunteered time to various organizations and assisted special needs children.

Mary Ellen, 79, died Nov. 29 at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn, as a result of complications from COVID-19.

Born and raised in River Rouge, she graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes High School, where she met her high school sweetheart and future husband, Raymond Murray. She was a cheerleader, and he was a baseball player. He affectionately referred to Murray as “My Bride.” They moved to Dearborn and were married for 60 years.

Mary Ellen was a homemaker until her four children were grown, then she worked for Dearborn Public Schools in several roles. She particularly enjoyed being a paraprofessional for special needs students at Fordson High School. 

Her generous spirit was a lesson to others, according to family. For more than 20 years, she and her husband volunteered their time at the Saint Sebastian Spring Festival, showed up for the annual Gilda’s Club charity walks and helped with fundraisers for local families, schools and nonprofit groups. 

She was happiest when spending time with family, whether it was hanging out on the front porch, under the driveway umbrella or in the lower level of her home or hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

As an adult, Stephanie Koch, Mary Ellen’s oldest grandchild, recalled how she often showed up unannounced and how she can still picture her grandmother’s warm greeting at the door before taking her into the living room, where they’d talk for hours. “She had a way of making me feel like I was the most precious thing she’d ever seen,” Koch said. 

“Before I would leave, after offering to send me home with whatever random things she had in her kitchen, she always did what no other family member would ever get away with. With both hands holding my face, she’d plant a kiss right on my lips. It still makes me laugh to think about that.”

Mary Ellen, known as GiGi to her grandchildren, made sure to travel with her husband to watch their grandchildren in school plays, dance recitals, concerts and football, baseball and soccer games. 

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She loved to cook, and a couple of her popular dishes were potato salad and a dish called shell-roni, which was a hit at family gatherings, according to daughter Laura Murray. Shell-roni, she recalled, was a cold dish made with shell-shaped pasta, cucumbers, mayo, onions and ketchup.

In the summer, the family traveled Up North every year and particularly enjoyed Mackinac Island. Mary Ellen loved Mackinac so much that she insisted the whole family join her and her husband for their 50th wedding anniversary on the island in 2010. They stayed at the Murray Hotel. The trip summed up the Murrays’ entire marriage, which was built around family, according to Laura Murray.

Known as a sweet woman who was full of energy, Mary Ellen enjoyed gardening, going to casinos and reading romance and mystery novels.

“She and my father were so careful last year to stay in the house,” said Laura Murray, recalling how cautious her parents were before they finally ventured out to a local Knights of Columbus lounge for a bite to eat with a cousin and a couple of friends.

Laura Murray noted that the lounge had safety measures in place and took phone numbers for contact tracing. Still, she said, several people who were there that night got sick and four died from COVID-19.

“She did not anticipate that someone would be walking around (not wearing a mask) talking to them when their masks were down because they were eating, Laura Murray said referring to her mother. “The one time they got out of the house …” 

Mary Ellen and her husband ended up sick. Raymond, who has dementia, appeared to have a slight cold, but Mary Ellen got very ill and had flu-like symptoms.

The family convinced her to get tested, and the day her test results came back positive for COVID-19 is the day she was taken to the hospital. That day was also Raymond’s 82nd birthday.

Mary Ellen’s oxygen levels were low and the virus attacked her lungs severely, according to Laura Murray, who said she was thankful that the hospital allowed her to visit her mother, even though she had to stand outside a window to see her.

Mary Ellen was a devout Catholic, and Laura Murray said she was also thankful to find a priest, with the help of her niece who works at a Catholic bookstore, to give her mother her last rites.

Mary Ellen is survived by her husband, Raymond; children Michael (Dominica), Linda Malaney, Laura (Winston Britton) and Daniel (Shannon); grandchildren Stephanie, Scott, Emily, Sam, Mike, Eddie, Ashley, Eric, Wolf and Kane; and great-grandchildren Timothy, Maeve, Amani, Mikey Jr., Gavin and Ian. 

If you have a family member or close friend who has died from COVID-19 and you would like to share their story, please visit our memorial wall and select “Share a story.”

Brendel Hightower is an assistant editor at the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at bhightower@freepress.com. 

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