Obituary: Mary Josephine 'Jo' Baker Mayer / Dedicated mother, volunteer and wordsmith

Dec. 13, 1927 - Jan. 30, 2014


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Mary Josephine "Jo" Baker Mayer filled in each day's crossword in pen, even on Sundays, the most challenging New York Times puzzle of the week.

"She read everything she could get her hands on," said her daughter, Donna Mann Belt. "She had a sharp intellect."

Ms. Mayer, who lived in Monroeville for 42 years, died Jan. 30 at her daughter's home in Lindale, Texas, where she had been living for the past two years. She was 86.

Born in Johnstown, Pa., Ms. Mayer was the youngest of four children. She attended Johnstown High School where she met her husband, Lee Martin Mayer, whom she married when she was 22. Though he died in 2002, Ms. Mayer never took off her wedding ring.

While going through her things, Ms. Belt found a letter her father had written to her mother before they were married, while he was attending Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. In it, he described an emblem. "It symbolizes a fighting heart and a mind ready to learn," he wrote. "And that's just what I think of you."

He signed it, "With all my love."

"Everyone knew them as 'Lee and Jo,' " Ms. Belt said. "They were a good team."

Ms. Mayer was engaged by arts and letters, from her passion for reading and proper grammar to classical music and the opera. She was also a soprano in the church choir.

In addition to the arts, Ms. Mayer and her husband followed Pittsburgh sports. She was dedicated to listening to Pirates games broadcast by Bob Prince, and was an ardent fan of the Penguins and Steelers.

She was a committed volunteer, having served at Forbes Regional Hospital and with the Garden City Women's Club, Garden City swim club and Fire Co. No. 6, all in Monroeville.

"She was at Forbes from the day it opened for 25 years," said Ms. Mann. Until federal privacy regulations put a stop to it, "after she would deliver lunches, she'd look to see if she knew anyone who had checked in and would go to visit them."

She indulged her fondness for baking and would deliver her cakes to new neighbors on behalf of the Welcome Wagon. She also volunteered for every Garden City election and would be the first to arrive, with enough cake for every voter and volunteer.

"She never said 'no' to an opportunity to help," her daughter said.

Ms. Mayer had a love for animals which was seen in her affection for her dog, Oscar, and her cat, Charlie.

Ms. Mayer is also survived by her daughter, Karen Mayer, and two grandchildren.

Memorials in her name can be made to Cleveland Amory Fund for Animals via blackbeautyranch.org or to Hillcrest United Presbyterian Church, 1622 James St., Monroeville.

A memorial celebration will be held at noon March 18 at Hillcrest United Presbyterian Church, followed by a luncheon at Fire Co. No. 6.


Melissa McCart: 412-263-1198.


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