Mary Elizabeth Townsend

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  • "My deepest sympathy to the Cook Family. During this..."
  • "So sorry for your loss. Mary Elizabeth sounds like she was..."
    - Tina Treviño
  • "My condolences to Jon, Sam, Abby, Marcus, and the Townsend..."
    - Doug Dransfield
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Mary Elizabeth Townsend, 55
CAPE ELIZABETH - Mary Elizabeth Townsend touched the hearts of everyone lucky enough to have shared her generosity, wisdom, and humor. Passionately loved and admired by her family and friends, Mary's raison d'être was to help others, a calling she pursued with patience and compassion. Whether attending political rallies, spearheading political campaigns, volunteering on boards, or spending time with those she loved, she gifted others her full attention and affection. Mary will be achingly missed by loved ones near and far.
Mary was born at Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 23, 1963, where she lived until age seven, when her father accepted a job as one of the first employees in the newly-formed EPA, and moved the family to Raleigh, N.C.
She attended Jessie O. Sanderson High School and graduated from the School of Journalism at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She grew up in turbulent, exciting times, watching and experiencing the Civil Rights Movement, Women's Equality, anti-war protests and the Peace Movement. This wave of political activism shaped her values and beliefs. Grassroots action gave her faith and a sense of personal responsibility. While she earned a living as a senior marketing consultant at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, she spent nights and weekends volunteering for women's healthcare and counseling those in need.
At age 27, she ran into her childhood crush, Jon Donnelly, whom she describes as the love of her life, in a health-food store in Chapel Hill. She had just come from a rally for women's rights; he from the medical school library. They caught up, went camping, and were soon married. They moved to Albuquerque, N.M., where Jon embarked on his medical training and Mary joined the Center for Indian Youth, designing and implementing public health programs for Native American children. The "Pueblo Aunties" and beguiling children living on reservations touched her heart, and resolve, to work for greater equity in laws and policies that impact women, children, and families.
Jon's fellowship took them to Ann Arbor, Mich., where they joyfully welcomed their first child, Sam, and then a daughter, Abby, into their lives. Shortly after moving to Cape Elizabeth in 1996, where they built a house and settled in to raise a family, Marcus arrived. Her brood complete, Mary threw herself into mothering, finding "her most treasured role." She relished every stage of raising children - not just her own but their friends and classmates; her home was always open to kids of any age, a nutritious snack on the counter.
Still, she found time to forge close adult friendships, build community, find a spiritual home at St. Alban's Church, and work tirelessly on behalf of the schools. She campaigned for building renovations and adequate yearly budgets, served two terms on the school board, founded and curated the beloved [email protected], and consulted on both local and state political campaigns.
Reflecting on it all recently, Mary observed, "Jon, Sam, Abby and Marcus are my epicenter, my purpose and life meaning. My family has been my greatest joy."
Mary is survived by her husband, Jon Patrick Donnelly; her children, Samuel Issac, Abigail Marie, and Marcus Jon Donnelly; her siblings, Melinda Harrison, her husband, Michael, and boys Jake and Aiden, of Raleigh, N.C.; Steve Townsend, his wife Laurie, and their three children, Anne Marie, Jack and Tommy of Centerville, Md.; Matthew Townsend and Brooks and Melea of Dallas, Texas; her mother, Kathleen Townsend of Raleigh, N.C. She was predeceased by her father, Ronny Townsend.
Arrangements entrusted to
Hobbs Funeral Home
, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland. Online condolences may be expressed at

In lieu of flowers, and in honor of Mary's passionate advocacy for children and education,
please send donations to:
The Cape Elizabeth
Education Foundation
Box 6225
Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107

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Funeral Home
South Portland, ME 04106-3802
(207) 799-4472
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on June 14, 2018
bullet Civil Rights
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