Mary Lee (Heling) Powell is now singing in the choir in heaven. She passed away after battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma / leukemia since 2018.
The first child born to Milan and Lorraine Heling on September 12, 1947 she was baptized at St. Paul’s Lutheran in Bonduel on October 5, 1947 by Rev. Plishke.
During her first three years of her scholastic career Mary was able to walk to Porter School located next to the farm she grew up on. She then attended Bonduel Elementary and St. James Lutheran. She graduated from Shawano High School in 1965.
She married her high school sweetheart, Leon C. Powell, on December 23, 1967. They were married for 42 years. They spent their first years at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and Ft. Hood, Texas.
After graduating from Concordia College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1969, Mary was called to teach at St. Martini Lutheran School in Milwaukee. She taught grades 3-4 for three years and was also a softball, volleyball, and cheerleading coach. She continued her education at UW-Milwaukee with an emphasis in reading intervention.
They moved to Appleton in 1973 for Leon's job at Appleton Papers. At first Mary did not have a job but in October her future mentor, Bernice Fletcher, hired her as a qualified reading teacher. Mary taught for 3 years at Foster Elementary, 19 years at Jefferson Elementary and 16 years at Edison Elementary in a Title I reading / math position and later as reading specialist. She also taught summer school starting in 1992.
Before children, Mary and another Appleton teacher were asked to teach a reading education course at Lawrence University. She also served her Lord as VBS coordinator at Faith Lutheran in Appleton.
One of Mary’s passions was making educational learning materials for Grace Lutheran Pre-school as well as other Kindergarten / pre-schools in the area. Mary Lee will be remembered for the Cabbage Patch and Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls she made.
As their boys became older, Mary was able to become more involved in local and state organizations. She was treasurer for the Wisconsin Title 1 Association and the Wisconsin State Reading Association. She was on the Executive Committee of the Appleton Education Association and was elected as a representation to the Wisconsin Education Association and the National Education Association.
Mary Lee loved to travel and would passionately read about her upcoming trips. She had friends all over the word that she visited, including Grandmere in Paris, Chris in Alaska, Jaymi in Hawaii, and Cooli in Ireland. She participated in a Habitat for Humanity build in Poland, attended the World Reading Congress in Jamaica and went on memorable trips to the Holy Land in 2016 and Oberammergau in Germany in 2022. In addition to many family trips, she and Leon visited Washington DC, Philadelphia, and San Diego with the NEA. She looked forward to continuing to take trips to Arizona in the winters.
She also loved to go up to the family cottage near Cecil to get away and enjoy nature with the boys. Her friendships with Shawano/ Bonduel people continued to grow through local reading councils, Shawano Lake Lioness Club, and evening book club of AAUW.
Mary Lee retired in 2011 after more than 40 years of teaching. She continued to help out in the grandkids’ schools as well as volunteer as an Income Tax Assistant in both the Fox Valley and Shawano. At Faith Lutheran she became a stephen minister, MidWeek teacher, Faith Child Care board member, leader of women’s Bible studies, and choir singer.
She enjoyed playing sports, watching her children and eventually her grandchildren play sports, and watching the Packers on TV. A highlight for her after retirement was volunteering at Lambeau Field handing out Packer memorabilia.
Mary and Leon were blessed to have all three sons come back to live in the Fox Valley and raise their children here. Even before her retirement Mary had the great joy of caring for her grandchildren as infants, seeing them grow and develop into fine young people. She continued to support their educational pursuits as they grew.
Her children will miss her willingness to help whenever needed, her ability to sew and mend their clothes, and her commitment to her faith.
She is survived by her oldest son Travis Powell with children, Jaxon and Rayah; middle son Justin Powell; and youngest son Brandon (Traci) Powell with their son, Brayden; her sons’ dad Leon Powell; her siblings Bruce Heling, Sharon Follendorf, Sandy Doughty, and Kurt ( Rhonda) Heling; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents Loraine & Milan Heling; her in-laws Ray & Viola Powell; Jeff Follendorf; Terry Doughty; Myra Russell; Duane Powell; Connie Purpura; Bill & Carol Hoffman; niece Jennalee Doughty; and her beloved dog Sadie.
Mary Lee appreciated all the many gifts and friends and family that God had provided throughout her life. Memorials may be made to Appleton Education Foundation, Faith Lutheran Church, Bright Stars of Bethlehem, or by making a donation of a tree for her condo association at Fiesta Acres in Appleton.