Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mary Ellen Rethford, 1928-2014

Mary Ellen McDonough was born in San Antonio, Texas,on July 7, 1928. A few days after her birth, the family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Her father was a Pentecostal preacher and became the pastor of a growing church called Capital Hill Assembly. Mary graduated from Capitol Hill High School in 1945 where she participated in drama and was the state champion badminton player.

In 1946, she married Wayne Rethford whom she had known since the age of twelve. Two children resulted from the union: Elaine Moore and Suzanne D’Anza. There are 3 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Mary was energetic, smart and full of boundless energy. She had an excellent singing voice and often sang in church, at funerals and weddings. Her interest in church music was endless and she had committed hundreds of song to memory.

As we have reviewed her life, her interests and accomplishments, we found them interesting and amazing. Here is a partial list:

While living in Nashville, TN. She became a skilled maker of women’s hats and an accomplished seamstress. She was also skilled in pattern making and could see a dress, draw the necessary patterns and then sew the dress. A trade school offered a certificate in Interior Design and she became quite proficient at designing home interiors.

After many years of study and testing, she became a Master Graphoanalyst and was very adept in interpreting personality traits through an individual’s handwriting. She often gave talks at local colleges and to other interested groups on handwriting analysis and on several occasions was used by local police departments to analyze profiles. She once served on a selection committee for those seeking to winter at the South Pole for several months. She used handwriting as a basis for her selections. Her analysis was compared to other psychological testing before the final individuals were selected.

She became a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator in Illinois but never served in that capacity. Accomplished at picture framing, she was the owner of a frame shop in Glen Ellyn known as Dorothy’s.

Graduating from a school in Iowa, she became licensed in electrolysis and in 1976 opened “Electrolysis by Mary Ellen.” It first located in Glen Ellyn and later in Wheaton. The business, now greatly expanded, is owned and operated by her two daughters.

She was quite proficient in needlework and the making of Christmas ornaments. She was an excellent cook, but it was not something she especially enjoyed. If she had interest, there was little she could not learn to do - from refinishing furniture, rewiring lamps, installing ceramic tile or looking for antiques at garage sales. She always carried a small magnet. Before the days of the Internet, there was always a book with instructions at the book store to teach her anything she wanted to learn.
Mary Ellen had many friends and was greatly admired by members of her church, her business clients and the Scottish community of Chicagoland. In 2010, the Board of Governors of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society honored her “cultural and charitable work” by naming her the Clanswoman of the Year.   

Mary Ellen Rethford died on January 13, 2014 at her home in Lombard, IL. Her life will be honored on the evening of January 26 at the Lombard Church of the Nazarene, 536 North Rt. 53 (Columbine Ave). For those of you without a G.P.S. system, the church is one-half mile south of North Ave on the west side of the street. The family will be receiving guests beginning at 5:30 p.m. followed by a service of thanksgiving and music. A lone piper will close the service with Amazing Grace.” All are welcome.

This memorial service is being arranged by the Lombard Church and they will be pleased to receive memorials in Mary’s name in lieu of flowers. Send your memorial to the Lombard Church of the Nazarene, 536 North Route 53, Lombard, IL. 60148.

If you need more information you can call my home, 630-629-4516 or the church office 630-627-9444.

Wayne Rethford, husband and President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:
The Scottish American History Club will meet on February 1, 2014. The special speaker is James Cornelius, Curator of the Lincoln Collection in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential library. Please note the time change!

THE MEETING WILL START AT 2 P.M. (museum will open at 1 p.m.)


  1. BEAUTIFUL!! what a woman!! Her family should be so proud as all who knew her!! God bless you Mrs. Rethford and your family!!

  2. What a truly remarkable woman. Deepest sympathy to Wayne and his family.

    Frank Strauss, Secretary
    St. Andrew's Society of Schenectady, NY

  3. Rejoice in the memories....Our condolences to Wayne, Family and Friends
    Bill and Karen McClung...Oak Park...

  4. My condolences and deepest sympathy to Wayne, Elaine, Suzanne and the entire family. Mary was one of my dearest friends. My heart is full of memories of times spent with her. She was a super special lady. June Scott, Visalia, CA