In Memory of



Obituary for Mary Reed

Mary Roberta Barr was born in Kewanee, Illinois to James C. Barr and Dorothy Dorsey. Her family moved to Decatur when Mary was eleven, and she was lucky to quickly meet many girls who became lifelong friends. She treasured these longstanding friendships, and they loved her in return.

Mary was in the last graduating class of the downtown Decatur High, in 1957, where she was an accomplished singer and pianist. She earned her BA, with a major in sociology, from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1961. She received a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1963. It was at the U of I where Mary met and fell in love with a fellow classmate, Rudy Reed. They were happily married for 60 years. Rudy and Mary were devoted to each other as much as is humanly possible.

Mary served with distinction as Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Decatur from 1972 until her retirement in 1997. The staff, Board members, and volunteers all had the utmost respect and admiration for Mary. Her professionalism, humility and kindness were well-known. As was her frugality. She once chided a coworker who was throwing out the roll of adding machine paper, because she wanted to turn it over, reroll it, and use the other side. When they had an office holiday party, she insisted on saving all the used gift wrap – clearly being ahead of her time in the recycling movement. Through her leadership, the Decatur PP affiliate became one of the most respected in the Midwest. Upon retirement, the library at Decatur PP was named in her honor.

As much as Mary was dedicated to her profession and career, her first love was her family. She was happiest being a wife, mother and homemaker, and was excellent in all three roles. She adored her husband Rudy and they made a perfect pair. Her steadfastness and skill at running the household was unmatched, and Rudy happily did whatever she required, such as keeping her many vegetable plants watered in the summer and cleaning the kitchen so it would be ready for the next day’s cooking. She would have prided herself on her homecooked meals, but she was too humble to ever brag.

Mary loved her children and her son-in-law fiercely, and took such good care of them in every way. She also loved anyone they loved, especially her childrens’ childhood friends, and would send numerous letters and birthday cards every month.

Mary’s prowess with a sewing machine was unmatched, witnessed by the fact that she made her daughter’s wedding dress as well as the bridesmaids’ dresses. Mary was also an excellent cook who spoiled her family with delicacies like homemade chicken noodles, bread, and pizza. Her cinnamon rolls were the stuff of legend. She loved vegetable gardening, annually canning dozens of pickle and cucumber jars, which she gifted to numerous relatives and friends.

Mary was proud of the fact that one of her ancestors was Azel W. Dorsey, who was Abraham Lincoln’s schoolteacher in 1824 in Spencer County, Indiana. Her parents were teachers as well, and instilled in her a love of helping others.

Mary enjoyed watching movies, TV shows (especially Gunsmoke and other Westerns), and dispensing trivia about the Golden Age of Hollywood. She would reach for her trusty copy of Leanard Maltin’s Movie Guide to confirm that an obscure actor was indeed in a film she remembered. She instilled a love of films and shows in both of her children, and appreciated things like Die Hard and South Park as much as British police procedurals and Downton Abbey on PBS.

Mary was that rare human being who throughout her long and productive life combined a high level of intelligence, beauty, kindness and genuine humility with a strong sense of serving others. Her feelings about a woman’s right to reproductive choices could not have been stronger, and she donated frequently to democratic women candidates and politicians.

Mary was loved throughout her life by myriad relatives, close friends and professional colleagues. Her memory will be treasured forever by all who knew her.

Preceding Mary in death were her parents, her brother, Judge James Barr, and her sister, Carla Jean Barr. She is survived by her husband Rudy, her children, Robert of Decatur and Elise of Minneapolis, her son-in-law, Norman Wondero, and many nieces and nephews.

Nothing in life surpassed Mary and Rudy’s love for – and commitment to – each other. But coming close was their love for all children. For that reason, the family would be grateful if memorials are given to Feed My Starving Children, at, or checks to:

Feed My Starving Children
401 93rd Avenue NW
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Please note on the check, or online, that your donation is in honor of Mary Reed.