Following are words expressed by Grady Lewis (‘65) at Mary’s “Home Going” funeral on March 31:

“Mary and I first met in 1985 at a dinner in the dome room of the rotunda. That’s right, the dome room of the University of Virginia Rotunda. The room was full. A former rector (Hovey Dabney) of the University was there. The occasion was to honor Mary’s husband, Billy. Billy was houseman for 36 years at my fraternity. He was much more than that.  He was a good and strong man. He had a profound impact on countless young men who were students at the University. So much so that he was made an official member of the fraternity in 2006. So… he is our brother forever. However, we are not here to celebrate Billy’s life. Instead, as my mother taught me long ago, “behind many a good and strong man you will find a good and strong woman.” Today we celebrate Mary’s life.

As her husband’s health declined, my contact with Mary increased. I learned of her huge giving spirit. I learned that this practice of caring for others began with her parents and her brothers and sisters in her birthplace….. right next door to us here today. It was a giving spirit instilled by her family and nurtured by her strong faith and her Oak Union church community. She and her dear sister Constance were virtual parents to their nephew, Edward Rydell, and their niece, Lesia, when they were children. No doubt there are many examples of her caring for others from her lifelong membership at Oak Union and from her 50 years of self-employment as a beautician.

She was at Billy’s side every day whether at home, at the hospital, or at the nursing home before his passing in 2009.The story was repeated when Constance’s health declined. Mary’s example was an inspiration to me and my fraternity brothers. It was an opportunity to help and we did our best to do so. To be able to help was a gift to the givers.

Those of us who live nearby Mary’s home have had the very good fortune to be able to enjoy Mary’s company there for many years.  Mary was an incredible person in her own right, and a delight to be around. Her good humor and optimism through many trials never flagged. “Can’t complain” was not just a response made from habit. Mary truly felt a responsibility for her own well-being and considered herself blessed in comparison to others. 

Now it is her true Home Going, following that path Home alongside Billy and members of her Brooks family who are placed at rest here.  

I will miss her deeply.”

“Willie” was known to his family and to the Charlottesville community as “Billy”.

Support for the Alexander Family

Proving that the Helping Hand is alive and well, a number of brothers have contributed to Mary’s funeral expenses. Those expenses are now fully funded. If you would like to make a gift in memory of Mary and Willie Alexander, please consider a gift to the church that she loved and called her own.  Oak Union Baptist Church, Building Fund, 2000 Owensville Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901.