COLUMBIA — When Mary Burgess was diagnosed with breast and colon cancer about a decade ago, she refused to let it slow her down. Instead, the mother of three continued to dedicate her time to her passions in life: work, family and art.
"She was never hopeless or worried, never the type of person to go around weeping and wailing 'Poor me,'" her husband, Ronald Burgess, said. "Even at the worst times, she would say, 'We'll get through this.'"
Mary Burgess of Columbia died Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, of cancer. She was 77.
She was born May 31, 1936, in Chicago, Ill., to John and Eleanor (Lewandowski) Bucz. She married Ronald Burgess on Nov. 19, 1960.
Mrs. Burgess met her husband in 1957 at the Baby Doll Polka Club in Chicago, Ill. Ronald Burgess, who was talking to a friend, said he was immediately drawn to her. He struck up a conversation with her that day, and they remained together for the next 56 years. While he taught psychology at Columbia College, she earned an associate degree in art history at the school and then began a career in retail.
The couple traveled frequently throughout their marriage, both in the U.S. and abroad. Every time they visited a new place, they brought home a piece of art to remind themselves of their trip. Mrs. Burgess also supported local artists, maintaining a friendship with Columbia sculptor Robert Bussabarger for many years. The Burgess household is home to two of Bussabarger's sculptures and pieces from Alaska and Florida, among others.
Mrs. Burgess continued to work steadily after her cancer diagnosis about 10 years ago, remaining active in the community and dedicated to her family, her husband said. After her first bout with cancer, she was in remission for nine years.
"She was an amazingly strong woman," Ronald Burgess said. "During all the radiation and the treatment, she just focused on her family and her job. She was a tough woman. She was always looking forward, always reminding herself what was truly important."
Mrs. Burgess is survived by her husband, Ronald Burgess; a son, David Burgess, and his wife, Holly; and two daughters, Karin Burgess and Laura Voorheis, all of Columbia.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Services will take place at 1 p.m. Friday at the Memorial Park Cemetery, with burial immediately following.
Memorial contributions can be made to Rainbow House, 1611 Towne Drive, Columbia, MO 65202.
Condolences can be posted at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com.