Saturday, May 21, 2022

Mary Ross Rathbun, 98, former volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg

Mary Ross Rathbun
Mary Ross Rathbun

WILLIAMSBURG — Mary Ross Rathbun, 98, passed away Sunday, May 23, 2021. She was born July 20, 1922, in Saint Louis, Missouri, daughter of the late Walter and Mary Holts. In her early years, she moved several times in the Pacific Northwest, as her father was a manager with Sears-Roebuck.

She graduated from high school in Chehalis, Washington, attended a year at Stephens College in Saint Louis, and then the University of Washington in Seattle. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics in 1944.

In April 1943, while still a college junior, she met her future husband, Ensign Leon Rathbun, on a blind date. He was temporarily in Seattle and assigned to a new destroyer under construction at Bremerton, Washington. After a 13-month courtship, punctuated by many months of separation, they were married in New London, Connecticut, in May 1944.

Another 18 months of separation came during the war, and finally a joyful homecoming reunion in San Diego in January 1946. Mary Ross quickly took on the role of a Navy wife, including all the responsibilities for finances and other home requirements during the many absences of her husband on operations at sea. In 1948, her first son Scott was born in Coronado, and her husband left on a six-month deployment three days later. In 1951, her second son Ross was born, also in Coronado, while her husband was returning from another submarine deployment. A few days later, he was home to greet his new son. This was the Rathbuns’ second tour in San Diego. Mary Ross was used to occasional moves, after her girlhood experience, and always looked forward to the next location, whether San Diego (twice), San Francisco, Annapolis, Hawaii, New London (three times), Newport News or Washington (three times).

Upon her husband’s retirement in 1970, the Rathbuns moved to Miami, Florida. Mary Ross soon became interested and very active as a volunteer at Fairchild Tropical Garden, the largest and most complete tropical garden in the United States. She first qualified and served as a guide for walking tours and then moved up to training and qualifying new guides. During this busy, happy period, she also served as president of the Fairchild Volunteers Organization, and was named volunteer of the year. Mary Ross loved to sail, and, with her husband, spent many wonderful days cruising Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys in their 30-foot sloop Winsome. She was an active member of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, serving on the vestry and singing in the choir.

She and her husband moved to Patriots Colony, a retirement community in Williamsburg, in 1996. Here, she continued to be active, serving as a volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg and Meals on Wheels and as a member and counter at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. She organized and scheduled volunteers for mail delivery to residents at the assisted living and convalescent center at Patriots Colony, sang with the Colony Chorus, and served as secretary of the Residents Council.

Share online condolences with the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.

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