Mary Evelyn Corley Simmons––wife, homemaker, devoted mother, devout Roman Catholic, registered nurse, daughter, aunt, tireless volunteer and active community contributor––entered into her eternal life and the presence of the Lord on May 21, 2018.
The second of four children, Mary was born in Kilgore, Texas, to Mary Evelyn Vandergriff Corley and Clyde M. Corley in 1931. Her family moved shortly thereafter to Beaumont, Texas. During the Depression, Mary would rise early and sell fresh eggs and milk to contribute to the cost of her Catholic education. After graduating from St. Anthony High School, she graduated as Valedictorian from Hotel Dieu School of Nursing in 1952. In recognition of her leadership skills and training, Mary was recruited to serve as head nurse of the psychiatric unit at St. Mary’s Infirmary in Galveston. There she met the love of her life, medical student Ray Lyle Simmons. Mary and Ray married on April 9, 1955, at St. Mary Cathedral, and lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Winslow, Arizona, before settling in Brownsville in 1959.
As the wife of a physician, Mary helped establish the first hospital volunteer Candy Striper program at Brownsville Mercy Hospital. She also served on the hospital’s auxiliary in several leadership roles, including as president, and volunteered there for over 50 years. Mary was a founding member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Nursing Scholarship Fund at Texas Southmost College to encourage and support students to pursue healthcare careers.
From Mary’s time in Galveston, she gained a lasting appreciation for historic preservation. In 2012, she was honored with the Legacy Award for a life-long commitment to the preservation of Brownsville’s historical sites and for service to the Brownsville Historical Association. Mary was instrumental in the creation of a town site survey that was the foundation for an official Historic American Buildings Survey now maintained at the Library of Congress. She was grateful to have served and worked with other dedicated volunteers in these early, groundbreaking efforts for the preservation of Brownsville’s historic properties.
As a long-time parishioner at Sacred Heart Church, one of Mary’s proudest achievements was helping to obtain its Texas Historic Medallion in 2001. Dedicated in 1913, Sacred Heart Church is a noteworthy part of Brownsville’s architectural history.
Mary and Ray were active participants in a number of social, philanthropic, educational and professional interests in Brownsville and Cameron County. Mary joined Ray in his work at the Moody Clinic through her service on its board of directors. Mary loved cooking, gardening, birding and spending time on South Padre Island. She regularly joined other birders at Laguna Atascosa and Brownsville’s Sabal Palm Grove.
Above all, Mary cared for and provided a loving, secure, Christian home for her family, always welcoming friends and visitors. She donated her time to help others with grace, authenticity and a true heart. Her knack of striking up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, was only second to her pluck, can-do spirit and southern charm. Mary thoroughly enjoyed life in Brownsville, its people, rich culture, unique natural beauty and history, including numerous trips with visitors to the museums and shops in Matamoros.
Mary is preceded in death by her beloved husband and best friend Ray, her cherished son Robert, her parents and siblings.
She is survived by her daughters Marianne (Dripping Springs,TX) and Madelyn (Alexandria, VA).
Services will be held on Saturday morning, May 26, at Sacred Heart Church, 602 East Elizabeth Street in Brownsville, beginning with Recitation of the Rosary at 9:30, Visitation at 10:15 and Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00. The committal service will follow with internment at Buena Vista Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sacred Heart Church, 1218 E. Jefferson St., Brownsville, Texas 78520, or the Brownsville Historical Association, 1325 East Washington Street, Brownsville, Texas, 78520, or the Moody Clinic, 1901 East 22nd Street, Brownsville, Texas, 78521, or to a charity of your choice.
Now, this was a fine lady and a class act, all cylinders, bar none. What a servant to others. Privileged to have known her.
Paul HemphillBrowsville, TX
Dear Simmons & Madelyn,
My deep condolences. I made it to mass, a little late, but got there. Sorry for your loss and blessings. May your Mother Rest in Peace. I will have a mass said for your Mother. Sincerely, Mrs. Bob (Rachel) Torres
Rachel TorresBrownsville, TX
Condolences and prayers on the loss of your sweet mother. I remember her fondly and will keep her and the family in my prayers. God's Blessings on all of you.
Marilyn BacaBrownsville, TX
It is so appropriate to be remembering and honoring Mary during Preservation Month. I think she would smile at the coincidence. Working with Mary and the historical association in the early years of Brownsville's preservation efforts and of my career was my good fortune. Mary loved Brownsville (as did Ray) and was fiercely committed to her city's history and architectural treasures--and that was Brownsville's good fortune.
Ellen BeasleyGalveston, TX
You may not remember me....I graduated from SJA in 1977. I do remember your parents and I wanted to say that I am sorry for your loss and know she is having a blast with your dad in a much better place. My mom passed away 2 days ago....heaven gained great ladies this week!
Rose Marie Zavaletta Gowen, MDBrownsville, TX
Marianne and Madelyn,
I am so grateful to have been your parents' neighbors for 21 years. I loved them both dearly, and they touched my family in many ways. Mary was so kind to me when my mother and father passed. I will always remember her sweet notes in times of need. I miss them both but know that they are happily reunited now. Thank you for sharing them with my family. Blessings, Amy
Amy TiptonRancho Viejo, TX