Mary Lois (Sunderland) Shepard was born to Clarence (“Mr. Buddy”) and Julia (Boushka) Sunderland on June 7, 1919, in Delhi, IL. She passed away on October 4, 2019, at the Blossom Place assisted living facility in Yakima, WA at the age of 100 years and three months and 28 days.
She completed her elementary education at the one-room Delhi school and graduated from Jersey Community High School in 1937. During those years Mary Lois was also very involved in 4-H, earning numerous awards and attending state and national events. She earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics from the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign in 1941.
She taught school in Malta, IL for one year before returning to Jersey County and working as a chemist in the Olin-Mathieson ammunition plant during World War II. Mary Lois met Gordon Shepard, who was stationed at Scott Field near Belleville, IL. They were married at the Delhi Baptist Church on June 27, 1943, a union that ultimately endured for nearly 63 years. After the war, they built a home and settled near Delhi. Mrs. Shepard taught Home Economics at Jersey Community High School for many years. Her husband, Gordon, worked for the Postal Service in Jerseyville and was known as “The Singing Mailman” for his vocal music talents. Together they were both very involved in church work as youth leaders, teachers and a variety of other roles.
After retiring from their original careers, Mary Lois and Gordon moved to Medora, IL where he served as pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. In the spring of 1977, they relocated to central Wisconsin as missionaries to start a new church on the Stockbridge Munsee Indian Reservation, where Gordon was a tribal member. Working with the local people, they helped establish the Stockbridge Bible Church near Bowler, Wisconsin. Over 10 years the work grew from a small home Bible study group to constructing a building and becoming an established congregation that continues serving the reservation community.
Eventually retiring from the pastorate, they spent their summers in Wisconsin hosting numerous family and friends and retreating to the milder temperatures in the Rio Grande valley of southern Texas for the winter. After Gordon passed in 2006, Mary Lois continued to live on the Reservation and actively support the work of the Stockbridge Bible Church. At age 94, challenges of severe winters and maintaining her independence in a rural home convinced her to relocate to Yakima, Washington to live with her son Randy and his wife Elizabeth In 2013.
Mary Lois enjoyed many hobbies and activities. She was an accomplished seamstress, creating clothing, quilts and other items. She closely followed the fortunes of her favorite sports teams-- the St. Louis Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers. Another of her passions was helping others. She gave generously to her church and other Christian ministries as well veterans’ and Native American aid organizations.
She is survived by her sons Randy and his wife Elizabeth of Yakima; Terry and his wife Debra of Bryn Mawr, PA. Her grandchildren include Dr. Matthew Shepard and his wife Crystal of Cape Girardeau, MO; Sarah Whiteside of Jackson, MO; Christopher Shepard and his wife Amy of Redwood City, CA; Tracy Rashkin and her husband Misha of Hayward, CA; Aaron Shepard and his wife Brianna of Hendersonville, TN; Anthony Aman and his wife Zoe of Sultan, WA; Christopher Aman and his wife Carmen of Yakima, WA; and Kelsey Mortimore and her husband Thomas of Packwood, WA; 17 great grandchildren ranging in age from one to 23, and a number of nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her husband.
Memorial services will be held at the First Baptist Church in Union Gap, WA on October 19, 2019 and Alexander and Gubser Funeral Home in Jerseyville, IL on October 29, 2019 with burial in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Jerseyville.