Mary Elizabeth Otis Way

WayMary Elizabeth Otis Way, 90, on December 13, 2021, at Foxdale Village, a Quaker retirement community in State College, Pa. Mary was born on December 3, 1931, to Debora Stratton Otis and Jesse Carleton Otis in Sherwood, N.Y., in a two-room “hospital” a mile from her parents’ farm. Mary came from a long line of Quaker women.

The oldest of three children, Mary learned to garden, bake, and sew and took pride in driving the “Fergie” tractor. She graduated from Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio, then studied nursing at Keuka College in Penn Yan, N.Y. A professor invited her to attend a meeting in Geneva, N.Y. There she met Roger Way, a Quaker from Stormstown, Pa. They married under the care of Poplar Ridge (N.Y.) Meeting in 1953, shortly before Mary’s graduation and Roger receiving his doctorate in pomological science from Cornell University.

In rural Stanley, N.Y., Mary and Roger raised four children: Edward, Charles, Thomas, and Shirley. Vegetable gardening, fruit growing, canning and freezing produce, and do-it-yourself home maintenance were work for the entire family. Their lived example instilled Quaker values.

The young family worshiped at Finger Lakes Meeting, held in a private home. Later, they attended Farmington (N.Y.) Meeting until 1973. In the late 1980s, they were instrumental in founding Central Finger Lakes Meeting in Geneva, N.Y., where they were members until transferring to State College (Pa.) Meeting after moving to Foxdale Village in 2002.

In 1968, Roger’s research as a pomologist at Cornell University took the young family to England. They toured Europe in a VW campmobile. In 1970, the family drove to Cuauhtenco, Mexico, to visit Mary’s brother and his wife who were working with American Friends Service Committee. In 1972, Mary and Roger drove to Alaska with two of their children. In 1988, Roger and Mary traveled to Japan to receive an honor for Roger’s work developing the Jonagold apple.

Mary worked summers as a 4-H camp nurse when their children were young. Later, Mary found satisfying work as a charge nurse at Penn Yan Manor Nursing Home and as a school nurse.

Mary had an easy smile and laugh, relished time with family and friends, and found joy in much of what life brought her way. She had a lifelong concern for social justice. She and Roger cared for foster children and offered their home to foreign exchange students. In the mid-1980s, they provided a home for a mother and her two young children fleeing violence in El Salvador. Mary corresponded with an incarcerated friend, serving as an important connection with the outside world.

Mary was active with New York Yearly Meeting, serving as clerk of the Latin American Concerns Committee for many years. She introduced her daughter, Shirley, to peace work in Latin America when they traveled to Chiapas, Mexico, in 1997 to work at a rural hospital. Mary, along with other family members, participated in the annual vigil to close the School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Georgia.

Moving to Foxdale Village brought new friendships and new opportunities. She served State College Meeting as membership recorder and on the Peace and Social Action and Advancement and Outreach Committees. An avid quilter, Mary was clerk of the Needlework Committee, leading a group of women knitting baby hats for newborns at the local hospital. She served two years as vice president of the Foxdale Residents Association.

Roger predeceased Mary in 2019. Mary is survived by four children, Edward Way (Suzanne), Charles Way, Thomas Way, and Shirley Way; one grandchild; two siblings, Dillwyn Otis (Sara) and Edith Otis; and many nieces and nephews.

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