Life Story / Obituary
Driven, selfless, and devoted to the family she loved, Mary Wenzel lived her life to the fullest. She modeled a strong work ethic and compassion for others. A wonderful hostess, she enjoyed throwing parties and telling stories sharing warm memories with those she loved. Mary leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories for her many special friends and family to cherish forever.
Her story began during a time that was marked by WWII. It was 1942 and families were experiencing a gas rationing of only three gallons a week and a new breed of movies with war themes were hatching. Fredrick and Lorna (Jones) Wenzel were pleased to announce the birth of their baby girl, Marilyn Elizabeth, on September 19th, in Quebec, Canada. Born the second oldest of four children, her birth brought much joy and promise in an era of great change.
Growing up, Mary loved being outdoors. She was a bit of a tomboy and played with her siblings; her older sister, Pat, and her younger siblings, Ted and Sharon. Roughly around the age of nine years old, the family relocated to the city of St. John’s outside of Portland, Oregon. As a family, they enjoyed spending the warmer months camping and favored Lost Lake at the foot of Mt. Hood. Shortly after high school, Mary married her high school sweetheart, Charles Johnson. They welcomed home three wonderful children during their twelve years together. Later, she married Peter Ries, who also had three children. The children all knew one another and over the years, they developed relationships that made them feel like they were all one family. Mary and Pete pulled a UHaul trailer from the family station wagon on their move to Grand Rapids where Mary lived out the rest of her life.
As a mother of six children, Mary found success in staying organized. She was very active in her children’s lives and enjoyed being a Scout leader as well as a team mom for the baseball team. Mary had a way with children. Many neighborhood kids and friends of her children called her mom as she was so naturally nurturing. She and Peter opened their home up to anyone who needed a safe haven. They lived with an open door policy, that if anyone needed support, they could live with them until things were settled. As a family, they continued the traditions of her childhood and enjoyed camping all over Michigan in their Army tent! Mary loved to cook and bake and had perfected her homemade raisin cookies over the years. For fun and laughter, she and Pete bowled on area leagues. They loved to socialize and have time away from the stresses of managing the household. Always welcoming, they were known to invite Creative as well as a wonderful hostess, Mary loved to entertain by cooking elaborate dinners and planning special date nights often following a theme. There was always a good time whenever Mary was around!
She had many special pastimes. A music fan, Mary especially loved playing Elvis tunes as well as old country music. She enjoyed spending time on her porch and working in her vegetable garden. Highlights of their years together were the special trips that she and Pete took over the years. They especially enjoyed their two trips to the Bahamas. On their 25th anniversary, they even brought one of their granddaughters with them! Later in life, they enjoyed renting a home in the small beach towns of Saugatuck or Glen Arbor. Win or lose, Mary loved to gamble. She was lucky to win big once while playing Caribbean poker! After Pete retired, they made a little spending money together by cleaning the German Village and the Grand River Saloon in town. Above all else, she cherished time with her grandchildren.
Fiercely independent much of her life, after Pete passed away she needed a little guidance with things she had never done. A quick learner, Mary managed to learn enough maintenance to remain in her home until she moved in with her daughter two years ago. Sadly, she was recently diagnosed with cancer and her health declined rapidly. Mary was always proud of her heritage and enjoyed giving generously to the people she loved. Many will remember her and Pete for being so willing to let others in. Described as the sweetest person, Mary will be greatly missed. Her loving and nurturing ways were her greatest legacy. May her loved ones hold on to her special memories and allow them to warm their hearts for many years to come.
Marilyn “Mary” Ries, age 79 of Grand Rapids, passed away on February 25, 2022. She was preceded in death by her husband, Peter; her daughters Kim Ries and Karen Moats; and her sister, Sharon Owens. Mary is survived by her children Judy & Tom Hoekman, David & Esther Ries, Mike & Anne Johnson, Pam & Garrett Albert; grandchildren Marie Hoekman, Garrett Hoekman, David Ries, Kimberly Ries, Nick Johnson, Jessica (Alex) Sory, Brittany (Ray) Yentzer; great-grandchildren Conner, Trever, Landon and Hudson Sory, Avery and Ayden Yentzer; sister, Pat Goodling; brother, Ted & Rhonda Wenzel; and many nieces and nephews. Her funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 5 at 1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel where friends are invited to visit with her family beginning at 11 AM. To share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com