Mary Elizabeth Hall died at her home in Neptune Beach, Florida on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. She was born in Morristown, New Jersey on May 29, 1925, the child of Grace and Sereno Norton. She moved with her parents to Brunswick, Georgia in 1928 and grew up there, receiving her public school education in the schools of Glynn County. After graduating from Glynn Academy, she continued post-secondary studies at Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina, where she received her baccalaureate degree with honors and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She continued post-graduate studies and received her Masters in social work from Smith College.
Her work as a professional social worker took Mary to New York state (child guidance), Massachusetts (psychiatric in- and out-patient counseling) and subsequently to Oklahoma, where she did clinical practice and teaching in medical and psychiatric departments at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center. While in Oklahoma City, she met and married a social work colleague, Lester Hall, and they started their family.
In 1967 the young family moved to Pensacola, where Mary became a faculty member at the brand new University of West Florida. There she was instrumental in establishing the Department of Social Work and taught both undergraduate and graduate social work students. She fostered an interest in students’ learning from volunteering while also studying in the classroom. The Center for Learning Through Volunteer Efforts (CLOVE), which she developed at UWF, still coordinates student volunteers and remains a strong force on campus, where students of many different majors have served thousands of hours in community agencies and organizations. After 26 years in the classroom, Mary retired from UWF in 1993 and was named Associate Professor Emerita.
Even while teaching, Mary maintained her keen interest in professional counseling, especially with individuals and families suffering bereavement. She was licensed as a clinician in Florida in 1989, and that same year received national certification as a death educator and grief therapist. She maintained a private counseling practice for years after her retirement from teaching, kept her professional credentials current until her death, and served as an advisor and facilitator for Compassionate Friends, Widowed Persons Service, and community support groups for caregivers and the bereaved.
Mary had a lively sense of humor, and for several years performed in a clown ministry. She also enjoyed a lifelong love of music, both instrumental and vocal. She sang in choirs from her college days until her death, and as an older adult played the recorder, dulcimer, and harmonica. Her love of animals resulted in a lifetime shared with pet companions. She and her husband also raised guide puppies for the blind.
In 2002, Mary moved to Jacksonville Beach be closer to her grown children. At the age of 80, she made her new town a genuine home – embracing a large and varied network of friends encountered in the pet, spiritual, musical, therapeutic, and volunteer communities – and on her block.
Her belief in the importance of helping others found expression in a wide range of volunteer activities throughout her life. These included service with the Red Cross, 4-H, RSVP, schools, hospitals, hospices, and pet therapy in various settings.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband of 40 years, Lester Hall. Surviving to cherish her memory are her beloved children, Mary Kay Hall of Neptune Beach, and Patrick Hall (and his wife Catherine) of Birmingham, Alabama, and two grandchildren, Haley and Ryan Hall.
Active in church throughout her life, Mary was one of four members of her family to be ordained an Elder in the Presbyterian church. She taught Sunday School, sang in choirs, and served on committees at the local church and Presbytery level. In her final years she was an active member of Palms Presbyterian Church, where her prayerful concern, infectious wit, and deep faith inspired and supported a wide network of friends. To know Mary Hall was a blessing. She will be deeply missed.
Her Memorial service will be held at 1 PM on Monday, February 27 at Palms Presbyterian Church, 3410 South 3rd Street, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250. Messages of condolence may be sent to 308 Driftwood Rd, Neptune Beach, 32266. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial gifts to Palms Presbyterian Church, Community Hospice of NE Florida, or SE Guide Dogs, Inc.