DEL NORTE—Mary Virginia Pugh Hurter, 79, free spirit, beloved mother, sister and Grandmary, completed her life at home on Galveston Bay, Jan. 28, 2013. She was a solitude-loving introvert that everyone wanted to be around; she listened deeply to each person, spoke with empathy and is remembered for her loud, uninhibited laugh.
Born in Houston on Aug. 4, 1933 to Ralph and Nell Mick Pugh, Mary grew up in Thompson’s oil camp in the deep woods of the Brazos river bottomlands. She related to each bug, blade of grass and live oak in her childhood Eden, and throughout her life spent as much time as possible in the mountains of Colorado or on the flats by the bay.
She finished her high school years in Iago, Texas, and studied Fine Arts at UC Boulder. She met Roland Hurter, a young engineer who had just finished school at UT Austin, thanks to the GI Bill. Roland serenaded her with his ukulele in a canoe on Bull Creek; she married him at 18 in her parents’ large back yard filled with pecan trees, determined to be a good wife, mother, and new Catholic.
While Mary and Roland were beginning their family, they helped establish St. Ambrose Church in Houston. At 30, Mary had a personal experience of God as overwhelming love, which informed her life and stimulated a desire for life-long theological reading and understanding.
For the next 20 years, Mary and Roland raised their children, kept a welcoming home which they opened to many foreign students, and established lasting relationships with the Japanese, Italian, and Swiss families their children lived with. Summers were spent in the little cabin in southern Colorado, surrounded by blue spruce, aspen, hummingbirds, children and the mountain trout—which she caught and expertly fried in an old cast iron skillet.
In her 50’s, Mary entered the intense training of the Clinical Pastoral Education and became a chaplain at Memorial Hospital Southwest. Her next decade brought work with St. Mary’s Seminary, training seminarians, and the beginning of her role as Grandmary to seven grandchildren, whom she treasured as interesting and unique.
In her last decade, Mary cared for Roland in his journey with Alzheimer’s with skill and compassion. She moved them back to their house on Galveston Bay where they had spent many summers with their children, sharing the Gulf breezes with gulls, pelicans, herons and roseate spoonbills. There she perfected her shrimp gumbo and fish soup. In 2008, after Roland’s death, their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ike. Mary rebuilt, enjoying almost 5 more years at the bay—the icing on the cake. Reading two newspapers every morning, loving the solitude, welcoming weekend visits from family, she lived stoically with COPD, happily independent.
Her peaceful death came as a gift as she remained in her home, surrounded by her family. She is survived by her sister, Nina Ransom of San Diego, and her children and grandchildren: Nina Hurter and Wayne White of Austin; Katie Hurter of Spring and her son Owen; Clara and David Mullins of Harrisonburg, VA, and their daughters Rebecca and Katherine; and John and Kristin Hurter of Missouri City and their children Nicholas, Julia, Lillian, and Emmeline. Her funeral Mass will be held Feb. 15, at 10 at St Cecilia Church, 911 Bunker Hill Rd. in Houston. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to The Nature Conservancy (www.mynature.org/donate), The Alzheimer’s Association (http://www.alz.org/), or the Immaculate Conception Church Scholarship Fund, 608 Fifth St, Sealy TX, 77474.