We lost a worldly angel when Mary Ellen Maples passed away on the morning of September 17, 2022. She was surrounded by her family and was at peace.
Mary was born on February 8, 1954 to Roman and Luella Frieder. Romy worked at the Manitowoc shipyards and at the family owned Frieder City Bakery. Mary was always so proud of Frieder's Bakery and her humble nature arose from these origins. She was the youngest of three and, being the only girl, assumed the title of “she“ or “her,“ as this is how her mom referred to her when talking about her special daughter. She was her mom’s sidekick and best friend from day one and the special bond only grew with time. Like all older brothers do, Mary’s brothers (Tommy Frieder and Billy Frieder) took pride in loving and caring for their baby sister but also liked to push her buttons. Mary always loved sharing the story of when her brothers placed her on top of the refrigerator one day when their mom was away. Both Tommy and Billy deny this, but moments like these are what formed such a close bond between Mary and her brothers. They would give anything for her and she would give anything for them - and the three never grew out of pushing the other’s buttons from time to time.
Mary attended Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, WI and graduated in the class of 1972. She then completed her education at Silver Lake College, earning her degree in elementary education in 1976. She was known by her friends and classmates as being friendly, genuine, honest, good humored, humble, and optimistic. These qualities were ingrained in her nature and all memories of Mary from all phases of life will undoubtedly share many of these exceptional traits.
Even before high school, Mary met the love of her life – Bill. They began dating in the sixth grade and shared a true love story. They were married in their hometown at St. Andrew's Church in 1978. Mary began her teaching career in Manitowoc at St. Paul’s Catholic School and ultimately continued teaching at St. Joseph’s in Waterloo, WI while Bill attended medical school in Madison. She was so proud to be a teacher, thrilled to share knowledge and advice with her students in her own special way, and grateful for the many close and long lasting friendships she formed with those she taught and taught with. Bill and Mary moved to Rochester, MN for Bill to continue his training at the Mayo Clinic - but the most important gifts in Rochester were their two children. Andy (1982) and Brian (1984) were the pride of Mary’s life. As she put it in her own words, they “made her life perfect.” The Maples family moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1987 when Bill began practicing medical oncology at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. Mary said from the start that this would be a temporary move as she hoped to soon return to the Midwest. Hundreds of friends and thousands of memories later, Ponte Vedra Beach became home. It’s probably best to say it became a second home. Mary’s roots were always in Manitowoc and her values were formed there, but her wings brought her to a place in Florida and to a group of special people with whom she could share these values and the joy of being in her presence.
Mary lived her life fully - but most importantly full of love. She loved her beginnings - her hometown, her parents, her brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. Mary lost her dad (Romy) when she was only twenty-one, but the memories she shared with him seemed to be a lifetime's worth. She was especially proud of the state championships he won in bowling. Mary’s relationship with her mom (Luella) was one any mom and daughter would dream of. Their daily interactions would sometimes include deep conversations and at other times be a simple hello - but they were all meaningful in their own way. Tommy (Mary) Frieder and Billy (Judy) Frieder were always on her mind and she cherished every moment the Frieder family spent together. The love of family expanded after marrying Bill. The Maples Family - Jim and Marilyn Maples, Dianne (Kevin) Hollenbeck, Mike (Mary Brandt) Maples - became a part of her own and her special, sister-like relationship with Mary Brandt led to many amazing laughs, experiences, and memories. As her blood and chosen family grew, her love expanded to her nine nieces and nephews in addition to all of their children. Love for family extended to her friends, as she truly viewed her friends in the same light as family. There are too many to mention, but they all know who they are and that, to Mary, they were special in a way words cannot describe. Mary loved working at TPC Sawgrass and especially adored the relationships she formed with those in the clubhouse - namely the “basement babes.” She loved her Catholic faith and the many friends she met in various parishes. She loved to give advice - and all who knew her were the beneficiaries, welcome or not, of such advice. She loved animals of all kinds, but had a true passion for birds - especially feeding them and watching them at her bird feeders. Even the squirrels didn’t bother her as they were an equally great source of entertainment. Even more than birds, Mary loved dogs. From her first childhood dog (Honey) to those in her adult life (Muffin, Morgen, and Emme) - dogs brought her the truest sense of joy and happiness. Mary loved gardening. She had a green thumb and enjoyed time growing plants and flowers and observing all of the wildlife that came along with it. She loved coupon clipping and bargain shopping - many share memories of eventful shopping trips where Mary bought trinkets and anything that reminded her of a friend or family member. Mary loved to play cards - and in particular, Shanghai. Shanghai was a family tradition. Many hands were played, but the conversations had and memories made together around the table are priceless. Mary loved to travel. Probably her most cherished trips were those returning home to Wisconsin to visit family and friends. She loved trips to Boston to visit her sons while they attended Boston College. Her travels expanded as she coordinated trips with both friends and her nephew, Steve, to places like the Galápagos Islands, numerous National Parks, Hawaii, Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, an African Safari, and Switzerland. She loved when others traveled to visit her and cherished visits from friends and family - in particular, visits from her niece, Julie. Travel to the family cabin in Blowing Rock, North Carolina was always special. This was Mary‘s peaceful place to relax and observe nature (many animals included), but it was also a memory making dream with unique and unforgettable experiences shared with her entire family. Mary loved it when people were simply together, and this was the perfect place for togetherness.
Above all, Mary loved her family. Her husband, her sons, and her six grandchildren – Maggie, Romy, Will, Maria, Parker, and Fitzy. She loved being an amazing part of their lives and took every opportunity to be with them. She was proud of her husband and her sons, and all of their accomplishments, activities, friendships, and interests. She had a special way of sharing this pride with so many others but in a way only a proud, humble, and loving mother could. For those that heard stories about Bill, Andy, and Brian, you know exactly what this means. Probably most importantly, she was proud from head to toe that Andy (Lindsay) and Brian (Alex) blessed her with six perfect grandchildren. She loved watching Maggie ice skate. She loved to watch Romy golf. She loved watching Will play hockey. She loved watching Maria dance. She could not get enough stories about Parker and Fitzy. She wanted to know all about their schools. She bent over backwards to make holidays the most special time imaginable. She simply could not get enough time with her grandkids and every second spent with them was a memory in the making. She was the best “Meme!”
Mary is preceded in death by her Mom (Luella Frieder), Dad (Romy Frieder), mother-in-law (Marilyn Maples), close aunt and uncle (Ethel and George Frieder), sister-in-law (Judy Frieder), and other extended family members and close friends.
As said so beautifully by St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” As said so beautifully by Mary herself, “The greatest gift you can give anyone is the gift of your time.” Combined, these two quotes perfectly summarize Mary Ellen. Time is such a precious gift and she gladly and freely shared time with friends and family as if it were infinite. She took time to listen and shared her love for people through a genuine interest and care for virtually everyone she met. She shared love in her own special ways - time, stories, laughs, hugs, phone calls, newspaper clippings, home cooking, visits, thoughtful gifts (she purchased Christmas gifts year-round), and always being a listening ear and a helping hand. Stemming from her upbringing and her faith, everyone was the same and held equal importance - thus the time shared with and the care and concern shown towards others was always the absolute best she could give. This love so often served as a bridge, as Mary had a knack for being the force that connected different groups of people and encouraged other friendships to blossom as a result. Mary’s love certainly holds a special place in the chapters of so many lives. For those touched by her love, they will never forget it. It has been said that a heart that is broken is one that has been loved. Many hearts have broken with Mary’s loss, but we must be at peace knowing her love remains in all of our lives and that she will be sharing the same love and support from Heaven.
Funeral and Memorial services will be held at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) on Monday, September 26th at 11am. Family greeting will begin at 9:30am. A reception will follow.