ST. PETERSBURG — Mary Stovall knew what she wanted and how to get it. Though she lived comfortably and moved in elite social circles, most of what she wanted was free.
Her children, all baby boomers, describe Mrs. Stovall as a 1950s woman — lined up solidly behind her husband and children, pursuing her own talents and dreams only as an afterthought.
And Mrs. Stovall was talented. She was a spirited athlete, an accomplished piano player, a deft cartoonist.
Rather than pursue any of several possible careers, she did what a '50s woman would do: Pass along and nurture those talents in her children.
Mrs. Stovall, who carried the rural sensibilities of her youth through a different adulthood, died Monday. She was 90.
She was the kind of person who, when daybreak came, she was ready.
"My mother was … up by 6:30 every morning," said her daughter, Sally Willis. "Dressed, make-up on, a cup of coffee in her hand and ready to go."
She had places to go. For several years in the 1960s, Mrs. Stovall taught American history at Boca Ciega High School. She went to the yacht club, meetings of the Junior League and the Stuart Society, which supports the Museum of Fine Arts, for years. When the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club embarked on a renovation project, Mrs. Stovall and her late husband, George, were the first to apply for and receive club membership.
Mrs. Stovall also never lost her childlike sense of adventure. In the 1960s, she drove her children across the state so they could see a lunar rocket launch at dawn.
Summers, she took her grandchildren to a family peach farm in South Carolina. Her family has wondered if that is where she learned to accept that life is transitory, including the lives of her beloved birds and basset hounds, and that the best anyone can do is celebrate it and then let it go.
"She had a barnyard type of mentality," said her son, Tom. "Things were as they were. And she dealt with them as they came."
His career as a ballet dancer, Broadway actor, movie producer and artist is a far cry from working at his father's mutual fund company. All four children developed musical, artistic or literary talents.
Family members gathered by her bed Monday evening at Westminster Palms. "We held her hand or her foot, talked to her and each other," Willis said. "Laughed a little bit, cried a little bit."
Then, so quietly no one even noticed at first, Mrs. Stovall slipped away.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]