Mary Kathyrn Schinn, of Phoenix, AZ, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend to many, passed away peacefully, after a rapid decline in health, on August 25, 2021. She was preceded in death by her husband of fifty-nine years, Lawrence (Larry) Joseph Schinn and her son, Lawrence Michael Schinn.
She will be greatly missed by her daughter, Claudia Schinn (Phoenix, AZ); daughter-in-law, Patricia Schinn (Levittown, NY); grandchildren, Lauren Link (Long Beach, NY); Michael Schinn (Denver, CO); Allison (Jay) Joiner (East Islip, NY); great grandchildren Sean and Colleen Joiner; many nieces, nephews; great nieces and nephews, and a life-time of cherished friends.
Mary lived an active 99 ¾ years and was so looking forward to her 100th Christmas birthday, which we shall celebrate this year in her honor. She will be remembered by family, relatives, neighbors and friends for her strength of character, kindness, generosity, humor, spirit of adventure, passion for life and sharp mind up to the end. She was a prolific letter writer and to page through her address book can be equivalent to a photo journal of the special people in her life. Although we are grieving her passing, we shall smile and remember her passion to live each day fully with joy and gratitude.
Mary was born on December 24, 1921 in Duluth, Minnesota. Her parents, Catherine Walschausl and Albert Kollath, were born respectively, in Bavaria and Germany; met and married in Duluth where they raised their three children. Duluth is a beautiful hillside port city on the north shore of Lake Superior with great outdoor activities and a wonderful place to raise a family.
Mary attended St Anthony’s Grade School, Central High and Cathedral High School. She was active in Girl Scouts, Drama Club, Pep Club, Social Clubs, community service and enjoyed playing sports, especially softball, skating, and cross-country skiing.
After graduation from high school, Mary was employed at Northwestern Bell Telephone Company in Duluth as an operator and student instructor. She was called to work on Sunday, December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked and she returned home two days later. Mary wanted to serve and be part of the war effort; however, she had to wait a year because part of the military requirement was that women had to be age 21 to enlist.
At age 21, Mary enlisted in the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) on January 2, 1943 and was sent to the WAAC Training Center at Fort Des Moines, Iowa and then reassigned to Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) in Shreveport, Louisiana where she was a flight dispatcher for 7 months. In July 1943 the WAAC were given active-duty status to become part of the regular Air Force. During this time the Air Force established a full WAC company to go overseas and Mary was one of the two selected from Barksdale AFB for special assignment to go to Europe. Special war zone training followed at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and Camp Shanks, New York before they departed with 14,000 troops sailing on the “Queen Mary” for transport to England.
After arrival in Scotland, she was temporarily assigned to 1st Bomb Division in Brampton Park, near Huntingdon. She was fortunate at that time to be near her future husband, Lawrence Schinn, enlisted in the Army. Mary was then sent to a communications school in London during the time of the last blitz attacks. She often commented about all the hardships endured by the British since 1939.
Her final assignment was to the 8th Air Force Bomber Command (Pinetree) Headquarters, located at High Wycombe, England, the operations center for General Jimmy Doolittle. She served there for eighteen months living in a Quonset hut. Mary tells the story of how General Jimmy Doolittle, in order to raise their morale before the invasion, visited their hut and admired their efforts to make like more pleasant by adding lining to the interior of their blackout drapes with floral material! She said he was a very kind man.
Mary worked 75 feet underground as a teletype operator handling all American news and bombing mission orders. General Doolittle’s conference room for flight mapping was a floor above. She was proud to be on duty June 6, 1944, when the orders came in to send out flight bombing instructions for the invasion. She commented that when her shift was over and she stepped outside, the sky was black with planes flying to the continent.
Mary and Larry finalized their wedding on June 28th in Cambridge, England at the Church of Our Lady and the Seven English Martyrs. Shortly after, Larry was sent across to the continent.
As peace returned, the 8th Air Force finished duties in England and she was sent to the 9th Air force in Bad Kissingen, Germany with final assignment to route communications and troop movements. She returned back to England to await return home on the Queen Mary, this time with only 11,000 troops on board.
Mary was very proud of her military service during WWII. There is an “Interview with Veterans History Project,” the American Memory Collection, where she was interviewed about her overseas duty during WWII. Search on “Mary Kathryn Schinn VHP” to bring up the site.
After discharge from military service, Mary and Larry returned to their hometown, Duluth, Minnesota where they settled and raised their two children, Claudia and Larry. Mary and Larry created a beautiful life together with their family and friends. Their home was always a place of welcome for family and friends. There were years of outdoor activities, road trip vacations around the United States, camping, parties --- any excuse for a celebration with friends and family!
In 1962 the family relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. The ties to Minnesota remained strong for the next 59 years living in Arizona. As in Minnesota, Mary and Larry opened their Arizona home to many friends and family over the years, because they delighted in sharing the beauty of Arizona. They were avid fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals, along with following ASU football since 1965 … no interruptions during any of these games!
Mary retired from Bell Telephone after forty years of service. She was active in the Telephone Pioneers contributing hours of time and energy doing volunteer and charity work. She was a member of St Gregory Parish and a charter member of Women in Military Service.
She was devoted to her family and friends and loved visiting hometown friends and neighbors in Minnesota as often as possible. They knew all the roads, towns and sights between Phoenix and Duluth! In later years, their three grandchildren were the “apple of their eye” so they drove to New York as often as possible to spend time with them during their growing up years. Their drive to New York was always a straight line to get there; however, on their return to Phoenix they took leisurely tours of sights along the way. We looked forward to hearing about their sightseeing adventures on the back roads of America.
In March of 2012, along with 28 men and another woman, Mary was fortunate to be on a 3-day “Honor Flight” trip to Washington, DC. It included a tour of the Capital and time spend with Senator John McCain, touring the WWII Memorial and other memorials, dinner at the Naval Academy and flag furling at Fort McHenry. She expressed it as one of the most touching, loving, patriotic and grateful events in her life given by many volunteers devoting much of their time and preparation to honor veterans.
She and Larry had a well-lived life together, both believing this was a wonderful world. They enjoyed traveling throughout the United States and taking international cruises and tours. She often said she had been blessed with almost a century of adventures and having traveled to 50 countries with her husband. In her later years she enjoyed three European Christmas Market River trips, as being a Christmas born baby, this was her favorite time of year. Her favorite American adventures were two Colorado River raft trips, canoe trips in the Minnesota Boundary Waters and viewing America from the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
Mary maintained an active lifestyle well into her later years and touched the lives of many with her warmth and spirit. She found much joy drinking morning coffee on her front porch, watching the neighborhood and especially having neighbors come over at happy hour to have cocktails or wine on the back patio!
Visitation, Friday, July 29, 2022, from 10:00am and will continue to the 11:00am Mass of Christian Burial at St Benedict's Catholic Church, 1419 St. Benedict St. Duluth, Minnesota. Burial at Calvary Cemetery, Duluth with full military honors.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Salvation Army or a No Kill Animal Shelter.
Please visit www.dfhduluth.com to view complete obituary and share on-line condolences. Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home, 600 East 2nd, Duluth MN, 218-727-3555.