Twenty years ago, I heard about a group called Midnight Oil Smockers. I had been smocking for a year and was fairly obsessed with creating dresses for my 2 pre-school daughters. I walked into my first meeting in July, 1996 at the Sugar Land Community Center on Matlage Way, and I was hooked. The members were all women who loved smocking, but that’s where the similarities ended. There were young women with babies in arms, there were middle-aged women who were sewing for their young grandchildren, and there were older women who had been smocking for 50+ years. Mary Shelton was one of those older women. She and Del Kaufhold were two of the founders of MOS and they were also as different as night and day. While their age and excellent smocking abilities were a common factor, Del was a tough, former nurse, and a leader who had no trouble salting her speech with expletives. Mary was as sweet and kind as could be and never said anything the least bit questionable. She preferred being in the background. Both were incredibly faithful to the guild, but Mary was especially so.
Representative for years. As the SL Rep, she made sure MOS had a room for its meeting each third Monday evening of the month. One requirement of The City of Sugar Land was that the person who reserved the room had to be in attendance during the time of the meeting. Most of us saw that as a suggestion, not an absolute requirement, since we always cleaned up well after the meeting and made sure we left everything as we found it. Not Mary; she arrived early and stayed until the last member left. She took her responsibility very seriously and never, ever complained about it.
Mary didn’t bring many items for Show & Share and she said she rarely made anything anymore. When she did bring something, she very meekly showed it and apologized for her work. Her work was wonderful. Whenever I brought an item for Show & Share, she would ooh and aah over it like it was the most fabulous dress she had ever seen. Understand that my work was not that great, but you would never have known it listening to Mary. She was incredibly encouraging and wonderfully sweet.
In her late 80’s, Mary gave up the SL Rep position. She was in a wheelchair and couldn’t get around easily any more. Mary still came to the meetings when she could, brought by her daughter who was her caretaker. She continued to be encouraging each time she came.
Mary hasn’t been to our meetings in the last few years. At 95, she was frail and in pain, yet her family and friends said she never, ever complained. In the twenty years I knew her, I never heard her complain or utter one bad word about another person.
She was an encourager from beginning to end, her shy smile and sweet spirit will be missed.