Cover photo for Mary Jean Borchardt's Obituary
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Mary Jean Borchardt

December 15, 1945 — August 2, 2023

Appleton

Mary Jean Borchardt

With deepest sorrow, we announce the death of Mary Borchardt, age 77, of Appleton, WI. Mary passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday August 2nd, following a courageous journey with a devastating illness.
 
We will forever remember Mary as our fiercely loving mother, wife, sister, grandma, devoted friend, partner in crime, teacher, singer, storyteller and most favorite person to laugh with. She was a lover of international traveling, spontaneous adventures, card games, and mystery novels. Mary was generous with her time and energy, and was always caring for those around her. She adored her family, for whom she brimmed with pride, and loved her friends like they were family. 
 
In late 2021 Mary was diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (AKA Lou Gehrig's Disease)--a disease for which there is typically no known cause, nor cure. Mary met this life-changing terminal illness with incredible courage, grace and strength. She embraced her gifts of cheer, humor and resilience- all hallmarks of her core personality- and navigated bravely through her nearly 2-year journey with ALS.
 
Over time, the disease robbed her of the ability to walk, talk, sing, eat, move, and eventually, to breathe. She endured some truly brutal days and unimaginable suffering. Though ALS ravaged her body and ended her life, it does not lay claim to her beautiful, bright spirit. She was surrounded by love as she transitioned from this life to the next, and slipped away comfortably in her sleep while holding the hand of her beloved husband, Fred. She emanated bravery and serenity as she soared on to her next adventures. While we as her family find it impossible that she has gone, we take comfort knowing she is free, peaceful, and living joyfully in heaven.  
 
Mary Jean Bittner was born to Agnes (Sippel) and Ben Bittner on December 15th, 1945. She grew up in a loving Catholic family in a home filled with music, in the small town of St. Cloud, Wisconsin. Mary adored her three brothers; Ron, Dan and Larry; and loved her huge extended family (which included more than 70 first cousins!) who all lived nearby. They all doled out and received their fair share of good-natured teasing, and loved to laugh together. Mary always talked about her gratitude for growing up in a small town; with limited entertainment options, they had to rely on their own creativity to “make their own fun”. 
 
Mary attended St. Mary’s Springs Academy high school in Fond du Lac, and went on to study at University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Education with a focus in speech pathology. In college, she made many lifelong friends and met her future husband, Fred.
 
After college, Mary began her career in the Appleton Area School District where she taught for nearly 28 years until her retirement in 2003. Mary was a dedicated speech and language pathologist and Special Education teacher, and made a remarkable impact on the lives of her students and their families. In April of 1972, Mary and Fred were married at St. Therese Catholic Church in Appleton. Mary went from being Miss Bittner to Mrs. Borchardt. This really threw her young students for a loop, and for decades to follow, many were challenged to pronounce “BORE-cart”. The pronunciation variations of her name brought Mary much joy…including some of her favorites “Mrs. Go Cart”, “Mrs. Milk Carton” and the ultimate, “Mrs. Blockbuster”.
 
Mary and Fred welcomed their first daughter, Angela Mary, in 1975, followed by son Jonathan Frederick in 1977. Valerie Eva completed the trio in 1979. Mary was a playful and silly mom who excelled at making the mundane fun. The common chore of folding a basket of laundry became an activity…a race to match socks or sort clothes. “Who do these belong to?”, she would ask while putting a pair of her children’s underwear on her head. She always found a way to make us laugh.
 
With a zest for fun and adventure, Mary enjoyed travel and exploring new places. She loved visiting casinos with good friends (and her dedicated lucky purse), reading mystery novels, and playing cards. Mary never missed an opportunity to break into spontaneous, joyful song. Inspired by her dad Ben’s barbershop singing, Mary sang in a womens’ barbershop choir, The Sweet Adelines, and for years performed with her own beloved womens’ barbershop quartet: The Treblemakers. In the early 1980’s, Mary, Fred and a group of their friends founded an informal acting troupe. Several times per year, they all met in a living room with scripts, costumes, props, and a lot of laughter, and performed plays for groups of friends. They called themselves Actors Anonymous, and this enthusiastic group of thespians is still going strong, 40 years later.
 
Mary did not take herself too seriously and had an affinity for the lighter side of life. Her hallmark cascading laughter was contagious. She had a penchant for laughing in inappropriate places and situations. Say, a solemn church service. Or a very dull meeting. Perhaps a dry museum tour. While singing on stage, she’d try to blow into the pitch pipe to get their song off the ground, just barely managing to hold it together. It was a predictable algorithm: the more stoic the occasion, the more likely she was to erupt in giggles, cry silent tears of laughter, or stifle her laughter with shoulder-shaking twitches, tears streaming down her face. Everyone who knows and loves Mary has an experience like this they shared with her. 
 
Mary was always the last one to leave the party. There was simply no such thing as an early exit in her book, which makes it sting all the more that she has left us now. We had always hoped, based on the longevity of her mother (103 years old), her aunts and many uncles, that she too would live beyond 100. While we feel cheated that she is gone, we are grateful for the full life and love she experienced in her 77 years. Her legacy of finding the utmost joy in the moment, and laughing till you pee, lives on in all who love her.
 
Mary is survived by her husband of 51 years, Fred; her children, Angela (Matthew) Prindle, Jonathan (Michelle) Borchardt, Valerie (Steven) Hyden; 3 grandchildren, Moses, Henry, and Rosemary; two brothers, Dan (Cathy) Bittner, and Larry (Denise) Bittner; cherished siblings-in-law and many beloved nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends. Mary was pre-deceased by her parents, Agnes (Sippel) and Ben Bittner; her brother, Ron Bittner; a grandson, Luke Prindle; parents-in-law Dorothy (Daggett) Borchardt and Lawrence Borchardt; a niece, Allison Bittner; a nephew, Ron Bittner, Jr., and brother-in-law, Gary Shoults. 
 
A visitation and funeral mass will take place on Wednesday August 30, 2023, at St. Cloud-St. Isidore Parish, 924 Main Street St Cloud, WI-this is Mary's hometown village of St. Cloud, Wisconsin. Visitation begins at 9:00 AM. Mass begins at 10:00 AM. Interment to follow at 3PM, North Rushford Cemetery: 4190 Rushford Ave. Omro, WI 54963. 
 
Our family wishes to thank Mary’s wonderful healthcare team for their attentive care and support, including: Dr. Roxanne Jadin-Cardelli; Dr. Sam Maiser and the interdisciplinary team at Hennepin Healthcare ALS Clinic in Minneapolis; nurses and staff at Aurora BayCare Vince Lombardi Cancer Center; and Aurora Health at Home Hospice team, and nurse Brooke. Our profound thank you to the ALS Association and their amazing staff, especially Alyson Johnson; to dear friend and ALS advocate Craig Patterson; to the ALS Green Bay support group members, and to Faith Herrling and Wichmann Funeral Home.
 
In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes memorial contributions to the ALS Association. www.als.org

 

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Past Services

Visitation

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

9:00 - 10:00 am (Central time)

St Cloud-St Isidore Parish

924 Main Street, St Cloud, WI 53079

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Mass

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

St Cloud-St Isidore Parish

924 Main Street, St Cloud, WI 53079

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Interment

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

3:00 - 3:30 pm (Central time)

North Rushford Cemetery

4190 Rushford Ave, Omro, WI 54963

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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