A passing acquaintance might associate Sewickley nurse Mary Vish with hushed tones, feather-light footsteps and a gentle disposition that reserved the spotlight for surrounding patients and friends.
But family and friends who knew Mrs. Vish's passion for the written word will always remember the quiet presence whose voice resounded loudly and clearly from pages stashed in bedside tables or hidden between the pages of a well-worn novel.
"My brother just found a piece of paper with some of her poetry on it today stuck in an old phone book. It was a poem about the changing of seasons," said Mrs. Vish's daughter, Maureen Valenzi.
Self-published author and poet, longtime nurse and loving wife and mother Mary "Mickey" Donovan Vish died Friday at Masonic Village of Sewickley due to complications related to Alzheimer's disease. She was 88.
Born in McKees Rocks to Irish immigrant parents, Mrs. Vish had to overcome a difficult childhood to find peace as an adult. She was 2 when her mother died, and there were points during her childhood when she didn't have a place to call home. However, an early embrace of education drove her to graduate as valedictorian of her class at Neville Island High School and to join the Army in order to pay for classes at the Sewickley Valley Nursing School.
Beyond feeding a natural inclination toward caregiving, Mrs. Vish's work as a nurse also introduced her to Eugene, her husband of 66 years. Once Mrs. Vish helped to treat him during his recovery from a bout of appendicitis, the couple began a romance that led to marriage and the first of six children by 1947.
Although Mrs. Vish's dedication to healing might have led to a career as a physician under different circumstances, Ms. Valenzi said her mother focused her energies on raising her children, caring for her patients and pursuing her interest in writing whenever she had a chance.
She made it a point to merge the love of her craft with love of family through works such as "Reflections by Mom," a collection celebrating her grandchildren and the poem "My Husband's Hands," which lauded the gentle touch of Eugene's calloused hardworking hands when applied to family.
Even after she fell ill, she was known for reading her works to residents at Masonic Village and continued to write "until she could no longer hold a pencil," according to her daughter.
"She instilled in all of her children a love of words," Ms. Valenzi said. "She would always tell us words are ambassadors of your soul. She was right."
Besides daughter Maureen, of Sewickley, Mrs. Vish is survived by her husband, Eugene R. Vish, and five additional children: daughters Kathie Giaquinta, of Delaware; Carol Dague, of Boston; Gina McCullough, of Saxonburg; Lori Stearns, of Butler; and son Skip Vish, of Allen, Texas; 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Visitation will take place today from 6 to 8 p.m. and Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Copeland's Funeral Home, 702 Beaver St., Sewickley. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Mrs. Vish's longtime parish, St. James in Sewickley.
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652.