Cover photo for Mary W. Sample's Obituary
Mary W. Sample Profile Photo
1923 Mary 2015

Mary W. Sample

July 22, 1923 — September 13, 2015

MADISON - Mary Louise Wieboldt Sample, age 92, of Madison, formerly of Wilmette, IL, died peacefully with her family by her side after a brief illness on Sunday, September 13, 2015 at Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg.

Mary was born in Evanston, IL on July 22, 1923, the youngest of four children of Nydia (Huth) and Raymond C. Wieboldt. She fondly recalled her summers as a girl, especially those spent out West on family vacations and at summer camps. She also loved spending holidays at her maternal grandmother's house in Chicago. She attended Roycemore School in Evanston and spent her junior and senior years of high school at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. She graduated cum laude from Vassar College in 1944, writing her senior thesis on single-payer health care. She received her Master's degree in Bacteriology from Northwestern University in 1947. After graduation, Mary worked in a lab at Evanston Hospital and then as director of the Evanston Office of Public Health. She met her future husband, the architect George A. Sample, at a party and they were married on December 29, 1951 in Evanston. After a few years they moved to Wilmette where they raised their 2 boys.

After college, Mary developed a strong commitment to pacifism and social justice issues. On the heels of the McCarthy era, she joined the American Civil Liberties Union. She also became an active member of the League of Women Voters, a relationship that lasted more than 50 years. In tandem with her interest in social justice, she came in contact with the folk music boom of the late 1950's and early 1960's. Her well-worn record collection included Pete Seeger and The Weavers, Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, Bob Gibson, and Burl Ives. She learned to play the guitar and sang at various anti-war and community events. She often led fun-filled Sunday night family hootenannies in the living room. Later in life she enjoyed singing with the North Shore Choral Society and playing in a recorder group.

As her boys grew older, she began to volunteer or work part time in several capacities: as an aide in the Wilmette public schools, as vice-president of the North Shore Interfaith Housing Council, as a counselor at Family Focus (a non-profit that helps children and parents in low-income communities - not to be confused with Focus on the Family), as a volunteer master gardener at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and as co-owner of a garden design business. She was the first woman board member of the Wieboldt Foundation, which funds community-organizing projects in challenged neighborhoods in the Chicago area.

Mary was a unique woman, who at just under 6 feet, stood out in a crowd. She was full of life and laughter, and maintained a girlish sense of enthusiasm, wonder, and occasional feistiness until her dying days. She had strong feelings and was not afraid to speak her mind; one never had to guess what she was thinking (whether you liked it or not!). While a life-long panic disorder held her back from some travel, activities and opportunities, she engaged in life as fully as she was able. She loved spending time at the family's cottage overlooking Lake Michigan in Pentwater, MI. She adored her family, her dogs and cats, reading, cooking, playing games, and family holiday traditions. Her sweet tooth was legendary; she had a special fondness for black cows in summertime. She had a life-long passion for flower and vegetable gardening; this is where she found her 'happy place'. She once described nature as her "god".

Mary and George moved to Madison in 2005. In spite of being legally blind, profoundly deaf, and confined to a wheelchair since a stroke in January of 2013, Mary remained a lover of life and people and continued to actively follow local and world affairs, and support liberal causes as she had done her whole adult life. We loved and now miss her dearly.

Mary is survived by her sons, Thomas of Newtonville, MA, and David of Madison; her beloved grandchildren Martha of Flagstaff, AZ and Emerson of Tacoma, WA; her dear sister Nydia of Kenilworth, IL; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband George, and her older brothers Raymond Jr. and James. The family would like to thank the staff of the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community for lovingly caring for, joking with, and befriending Mary. The wonderful staff at Agrace HospiceCare kept her comfortable during her last days. Contributions in her name may be sent to the American Friends Service Committee or The Nature Conservancy. Mary will be included among those remembered in a public memorial service at 2 PM on Thursday, November 5th in the Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 W. Main St., Madison. A private remembrance will also be held.
To order memorial trees in memory of Mary W. Sample, please visit our tree store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community

333 W Main St, Madison, WI 53703

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