Mary J. Banta, 65, died peacefully at her home in Portage, Wisconsin on Sunday, January 7th, 2018 of terminal stomach cancer.
She leaves her husband Lawrence, son Joshua and his wife Christina. She also leaves her sisters Linda Huggett, Carol Minchew, Sandra Slimko and June Bishop. She was preceded in death by her twin brother Larry "Butch" Burnell, as well as her father Louis Burnell, mother Marjorie and her sister Lois.
Born in Spring Valley, Illinois October 28, 1952, Mary grew up in Varna, Illinois. She attended Varna Elementary School, Mid-County High School, and Illinois Central College.
As a young woman, Mary was a respected softball player, having earned several MVP awards. Being a sports fan herself, she was a longtime supporter of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Also an avid bird lover, she enjoyed documenting birds and animals observed at home and on travels. Mary loved hummingbirds particularly and kept numerous feeders. She made a hobby of creating bird baths from porcelain bowls and vases, often gifting them for charity. She also enjoyed squirrels who would call at her door daily.
Mary retired early in 2008 as Inside Sales Representative for UNIVAR, USA, Normal, Illinois, where she also served as a Notary Public. She then became a receptionist at Evergreen Place Assisted Living, Normal, Illinois where she enjoyed many friendships.
Mary volunteered in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, as well as performed cleanup and charity operations in Iowa and Tennessee following severe flood events. For many years Mary was a supporter of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a supporter and participant in the Walk To End Alzheimer's; and a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity. Mary was accepted as a volunteer worker at the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Columbia County in Portage.
A longtime member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Varna, Mary was also a longtime member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Illinois. Recently, she became a new member of St. John's Lutheran Church in Portage. She was a devoted choir member throughout her life and enjoyed participating in "Love Thy Neighbor" concerts for Habitat for Humanity.
She is remembered as being a phenomenal wife and mother, and an exceptionally understanding, caring and helpful mother-in-law. She cared a great deal for her family, near and far, and will be dearly missed.
Mary's final resting place will be St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Varna, where she was also baptized, confirmed and married. Mary has requested there be no services and that, in lieu of flowers, memorials in her honor be given to the Alzheimer's Association or to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
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