The Life and Love of Mary Pryzina
Mary Jean Lerdahl Pryzina went home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on June 5, 2020. She embraced her life with gusto and purpose, and everyone who came in contact with her knew her love and care.
Mary was born in Madison, Wisconsin on December 22, 1927, to Albert and Lena Lerdahl. She studied music and earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1950. After graduation, Mary was the first choral music director at the Verona, Wisconsin High School. She met and married the love of her life, Edward Pryzina, and they married in 1950. While studying at the university, she earned a certificate of completion from the University of Oslo, Norway, for participation in a year-abroad study program with the UW. As an undergraduate, Mary was the assistant national director of Phi Beta International, a professional speech/music women’s fraternity. In that capacity, she was in charge of projects in India, the Philippines, and Mexico. She later taught high school choral music, piano, and directed church choirs of several denominations in Wausau, Wisconsin, River Falls, Wisconsin, and in Sun City, Arizona. Mary was very active in volunteer activities. She was president of the River Falls Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and was a board member of the Philadelphia suburban AAUW and the Wausau, Wisconsin AAUW. She served as the AAUW’s delegate to the Great Lakes Basin Commission (GLBC) and was appointed by the governor as one of three on the citizen advisory board to the GLBC. She has always been involved in church activities, and taught Sunday school in Pennsylvania and in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2003, she received honorable mention in the Jade Ring Contest for a story that she wrote to the statewide Wisconsin Regional Writer’s Association. Mary composed the song, “Happy Birthday America,” which was sung by the audience at the River Falls Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Most important to Mary were her church activities, Bible studies, and as she said, “wanting to be Christ-centered.” She was a caring, loving daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, servant of all, and servant of the Lord.
In her retired years with her husband, Ed, Mary was involved with many activities and social functions at their home in Paradise RV Park in Sun City. She was undaunted by doing new things. She participated in musical programs, directed the choir, joined pottery classes where she made beautiful dishes for her children, including her famous “ugly mugs.” She participated in computer club with Ed, and lapidary and silver craft club with Ed, where she learned the art of fashioning jewelry with the help of Ed’s precision and skill. Her life was filled with music, entertaining friends, playing games (chicken foot, Mexican train), and traveling to visit children and grandchildren. Ed and Mary made a brief move to northern Wisconsin, and returned to Sun City later, where they bought a duplex with a grapefruit tree which the grandchildren enjoyed climbing when they visited. When Ed passed away in 2012, Mary sold their house, bought a park model home back in Paradise RV Park, and became part of the community there. Not long after her move to Paradise, Mary found the “perfect” apartment at Atria-Heritage, an independent living complex in Sun City. She adored her third -floor apartment and new friends and activities. She attended two churches concurrently (Lutheran Church and the Paradise RV Park church); performed on the piano for many programs at Atria, was an active member of the Sun City Piano Group where she frequently performed, and she befriended and encouraged everyone who happened to wander into her sphere of joy. Everyone, yes everyone, knew Mary. Her love was not only felt but known, sincere, personal, abundant, and loyal.
She never forgot anyone. She seemed to never forget anything she ever knew, and would often correct and expound. She loved people with titles, success, pedigrees, and yet she herself remained humble. She loved to talk, but was also an intensely personal listener, and responded with her whole heart. She gave generously of all that she had, and was always giving gifts, bestowing honors, encouraging, setting herself last. Mary blessed her family and friends with her playful sense of humor, which came to life in telling jokes (often forgetting the punchlines), writing funny quips and poems, and mailing a steady stream of funny cartoons.
Mary lived as one who lacked no good thing, and met life open-handed, with courage and the strength of her faith. She loved her Lord and her quiet times reading her Bible and talking with her daughters and sons-in-law about her faith. She is an example of perseverance and faith to all of us, and knowing her and being a part of her life has changed us. Like her favorite composer, Bach, all that she did during her long life was for the glory of God.
When COVID-19 hit in March, Mary spent the solitary quarantine weeks happily turning her diary, which chronicled her semester abroad to Norway in 1948, into stories alive with detail and the innocent perspective of 19-year-old Mary on her first significant trip away from home. While Mary did not complete her Norway story, she has left us with a treasury of her early weeks there, as well as several binders full of stories she has written over the course of her life about her family, events in her life, and her spiritual walk with the Lord.
The hymns Mary chose as her favorites actually say a lot about her. While she loved all the old hymns, her favorites focused on the “higher” joy of the Lord that she already knew and lived on earth. This is evident in “Higher Ground” and “I'll Fly Away.” They show how Mary understood life from the perspective of eternity
Mary is survived by her two daughters, Nancy (Terry) Stobber, and Susan (Tom) Fuhr, five grandchildren: Sarah, Benjamin, Matthew, Erin, Lauren, and a new son-in-law, Jonathan (Erin). She is also survived by brother Tom (Cindy) Lerdahl, and many other relatives and friends.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made “In Memory of Mary Pryzina” to Along Side Ministries, a prison ministry in Phoenix that helps disciple and equip incarcerated Christians while they transition successfully into community—a ministry Mary volunteered with while living in Sun City, Arizona. Contributions may also be made to Truth For Life, a Bible-teaching ministry she enjoyed, or Trinity Broadcast Network, which she supported and watched nightly. To view and sign this guestbook, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com
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