Born: March 4, 1930 - Deceased: February 10, 2023
Mary Dean Graham-Otness, nee Lewis, 92, died February 10, 2023 at Keystone Place in O’Fallon, IL with her daughter by her side.
She was preceded in death by her:
- Husband of 54 years: Charles “Chuck” S. Graham III
- Parents: Fred D. and L. E., nee Etheridge, Lewis
- In-laws: Charles and Annie Rae Graham
- Brother: Fred A. (Hermina) Lewis
Mary was born March 4, 1930 in Charleston, Mississippi. Her winning smile and genuine friendly personality made her popular within the community. She was football queen and Tallahatchie County’s Miss Hospitality. After high school Mary attended Delta State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. It was there that she met the love of her life– football player “Charlie”. After their marriage in 1952, Mary began teaching music and directing vocal groups in schools while Charlie taught History and coached football. Soon, Charlie enlisted in the Air Force, graduated from Officer Candidate School and began a 22-year military career. Mary loved the life of an officer’s wife. She was gregarious with a southern charm, and never met a stranger. Mary loved to travel and delighted in planning and journaling her trips. When Mary traveled you could count on receiving postcards. No one could get more words on a postcard than Mary! Her favorite places in the world were Spain, Hawaii and Alaska.
Mary was an exceptional pianist, vocalist, piano teacher, choir director, and accompanist. Countless young people benefited from her skillful and patient piano teaching. She lived a life of service with her music. Mary played and sang for innumerable weddings, funerals, and church services in her lifetime. It cannot be overstated how many lives she touched through the years. When she and Charlie came to Scott AFB, Mary joined the Officers Wives Club Choir, The Heathertones, which performed all around the local area. She eventually became the director of that group and treasured the years spent performing and directing. As an accompanist for vocalists and instrumentalists, Mary was second to none. For many years, Mary served in the community by playing piano and leading sing-a-longs weekly at senior facilities in the Belleville, Freeburg and Mascoutah area. She brought joy to the residents by playing all the older tunes they knew and loved. Mary was a member of Westview Baptist Church in Belleville since 1973. She faithfully served as Westview’s pianist for 40 years until she was 86 years old. Mary was quite a wonder!
Mary passed on her love of the piano to her three daughters, and also taught 3 of her grandchildren. She was such a proud Grammy/Noni and her grandchildren adored her. She was devoted to her family and was unrivaled as everyone’s greatest encourager. Mary was a marvelous hostess, opening her home and welcoming family and friends at every opportunity. She loved her country, was proud to be an American, and always enjoyed playing the patriotic tunes. Mary will be remembered for the music she so generously shared with others and for the amazing person that she was – loving, caring, beautiful, and selfless. We take solace in the assurance that she is with her Lord and Savior in Heaven, worshipping Him along with the angels.
Mary is survived by her:
- Husband of 12 years: Don Otness
- Glenda (Ross) Novinger of Idaho
- Gail (Edward) Graham-Czech of Freeburg
- Vicki (Stuart) Fink of Texas
- 10 grandchildren
- Melody (Chris) Riedell
- Josiah (Holly) Alderton
- Emily (Chris) Moore
- Matthew Alderton
- Dillon (Alyssa) Czech
- Schuyler Czech
- C. Elias Czech
- Samantha (Marcos) Taveras
- Catherine Fink
- Jackson Fink
- 7 great-grandchildren
- Milo Riedell
- Finlay, Goldie, Sunni and Tucker Alderton
- Bella Moore
- Genevieve Taveras
- Denise Lewis
- Michelle Lewis
Memorials: Memorials may be made to Samaritan’s Purse, American Bible Society or American Family Association.
Visitation: Visitation from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Monday, February 20, 2023 at Kurrus Funeral Home in Belleville, IL.
Services: Celebration of Life service will be at 11:00 AM on Monday February 20, 2023 at Kurrus Funeral Home in Belleville, IL. Private burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.
Live Stream: Kurrus will be live streaming the funeral service beginning at 10:55 am and can be followed by clicking on the Live Stream link.