On May 3rd 1948 the world was graced with the birth of the best and bravest woman many of us will ever know. She grew in neighborhoods bursting with baby boomers, near-urban, not well-off, in a family also bursting with brothers and sisters, and all the stresses of near poverty. From the very first, Mary Anne (Instasi) Mendenhall’s love for the underdog, her protective spirit and sense of justice surrounded her, her siblings and friends. No one was ever in doubt about how she felt, no matter what blowback might come to her. Along with that was a sarcastic and teasing nature that entertained and educated. Anyone who truly listened heard a quick and cogent truth.
Mary Anne knew from a young age she wanted to teach. Smart, she went to Girls’ Latin School (later Boston Latin Academy); wise, she figured she’d meet her goals for college with better chance for scholarships at the local high school, without having to carry so many books. She loved and missed so many friends who hadn’t come with her. After graduating from State College at Boston, she went on to teach in the Boston Public Schools. Teaching in urban Boston, Mary Anne believed in the kids she knew had wit and intelligence, and never gave up on the “hard to handle” or overly active youths.
When she and Lee were blessed with children, she took on the tasks of mother and added home daycare provider, and her teaching never stopped. When the daycare was at capacity, there was always room for more. After teaching elementary classrooms of 35 students by herself, she was quite confident. They say it takes a village to raise a child—Mary Anne raised a village. She cared for kids, she mentored young mothers, and stocked her house and family with joy. When her daughters went off to college, Mary Anne and her sisters founded a wonderful daycare and early childhood center. Never giving up an opportunity to educate and nurture, she then hosted international students and gave them a grounding in esteem and social excellence, and she loved them as if they were her own family. With all her accomplishments, she never was full of herself—she filled others with herself.
She loved to teach, she loved to cook, she loved to nourish. When someone came to visit, she knew what to have on hand. Michael had strawberries waiting, Melissa had watermelon, the students far from home had homemade dumplings, rice and noodle dishes, and everyone left full of food and love.
For her many accomplishments, there were also many challenges and struggles and griefs that barely slowed her down. She never gave up. She wrestled her cancer to ground far longer than anyone could guess. With strength and courage Mary Anne made the choice to cease her cancer treatments, denying it sustenance and time to extend her suffering. Her cancer would never come out of this fight alive. Her friends, family, students, and her husband have a champion in her they will never forget.
Near the end, she only asked that we hold her. She reached to hug every visitor she could. Her biggest worries were for our well-being, and that she not be forgotten. You who knew and loved her, tell her story. We know you will never forget her.
Sadly, Mary Anne died on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, and left behind her husband Lee Mendenhall of Framingham, her daughters Melissa and her husband Chris, Nicole and her husband Jeff, Rebecca and her partner JR; six grandchildren: Jackson, Charlotte, Cameron, Julian, Trey, and Benjamin; siblings Sandra Craven (Frank), Claire Instasi, Ron Instasi (Shirley), her sister-in-law Kathy Logue; and many nieces, nephews and friends as close as family. She was predeceased by her twin daughters, Michele Edith and Jennifer Anne; her brother Nicholas Instasi, her sister Karen and husband Bruno Martignetti, her parents Nicholas and Edith Instasi, and her brother-in-law Ernie Mendenhall.
Family and friends will honor, remember, and celebrate her life by gathering for graveside services on Saturday morning, May 14th in Knollwood Memorial Park, 321 High St. Canton, at 10 am, followed at noon by a Memorial and Celebration of Life.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made in Mary Anne’s name, payable to: Care Dimensions, 75 Sylvan Street, Suite B-102, Danvers, MA 01923.
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