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Obituary: Mary Katherine Dannhausen

Dec. 10, 1942 – Jan. 28, 2021

When Mary Dannhausen died Jan. 28, the world lost a smile that brightened a room, an infectious laugh, and a woman whose compassion touched every person she met. She overcame numerous health and personal setbacks to live a generous, loving life until succumbing to the effects of lung cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s at age 78. 

Born Mary Katherine Beckwith to Helen and Lawrence Beckwith on Dec. 10, 1942 and raised in the Canaryville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, she first exhibited her quiet toughness as a young child.

Mary was the victim of a hit-and-run at age five and was read her last rites as she lay in her hospital bed. She survived, only to lose her father to injuries suffered in World War II, and her mother to breast cancer a few years later.

Mary, her brother, John, and sister, Ann Marie, were taken in by their aunt Anna O’Malley, who raised them as her own. Mary graduated from Mercy High School, then enrolled in pre-med at Loyola University of Chicago in 1961. There she was introduced to fellow student Myles Dannhausen, whom she married at St. Gabriel’s Church in Chicago on Jan. 20, 1968. Together they raised six children and enjoyed 60 years of love and companionship. 

In 1974, they left Chicago for Door County, where they joined the family business at Stagecoach Junction in the former Bertschinger Lumber Yard in Egg Harbor. Mary helped to run the business and worked many side jobs to help make ends meet as her family grew.

She was fiercely proud of her Chicago family and made sure that her children were connected to her brother’s and sister’s families, the Beckwiths and the Griffins. But she came to love the soil, trails and waters of Door County. Mary was happiest with her children, casting for bass on the causeway on Kangaroo Lake and perch at the Egg Harbor dock. 

Mary and Myles were part of the first class of First Responders in Door County. Then, at age 42, with six children at home, she returned to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay to finally finish nursing school, after which she worked as an RN for long-term-care facilities. 

She was selfless, and to the end she loved to lend a helping hand to people in need in any way she could. She helped her sons open Dano’s Pizza to help pay for college, a venture that would evolve into running Husby’s Food and Spirits in Sister Bay.

Though Alzheimer’s stole many of her memories, it could never pry away her skills as a wonderful, gentle, caring mother and grandmother. Nothing made her as happy as a baby to hold and she had an endless desire to make them smile. 

Mary was a voracious reader who passed on her love of books and writing to her children. She loved vacations with Myles in Cabo San Lucas, knitting, crocheting, painting, playing solitaire, scratching off lottery tickets and playing word games. She loved all things chocolate and all things red, and she absolutely despised the taste of butter.

Her endless compassion extended to her love of animals, from horses and tropical birds to dogs and cats. She worked as a census taker, volunteered for Democratic candidates and was happy to live long enough to see a Democrat back in the White House.

She and Myles Sr. became home gardeners before it was cool, raising animals and growing food to feed their family. Later, they became passionate supporters and advocates for Door County’s local food movement and area farm markets. She taught her family how to plant seeds and grow vegetables, and she loved guiding her grandkids through the rows of the garden.

During her last decade, Mary was lovingly cared for by her husband, whom she adored. Myles joined her at events, dinners and farm markets, and he ensured that she got ample visits with the grandchildren who made her so happy. Her smile and laugh were contagious to the very end.

Mary Dannhausen loved her children and her life in Door County, and she loved “our little house.” That’s where she took her last breaths, at home with family, side by side with her husband, as they were throughout 53 years of marriage. 

Mary will be missed by her husband, Myles; their four daughters, Christine (Christian) Dannhausen-Brun of Hinsdale, Illinois; Barbara (Gary) Lam of Baltimore, Maryland; Kathleen (Alan) Yanda of Sacramento, California; and Heather (Alfonso) Dannhausen of Los Angeles, California; and sons, Daniel (Dora) Dannhausen of Waterloo, Belgium; and Myles (Anne) Dannhausen Jr. of Sister Bay. Mary is also survived by the sister she loved, Ann Marie Griffin; 13 grandchildren (Jacob, Emma, Rachel, Aidan, Greta and Ava Dannhausen-Brun; Kennedy and Henry Yanda; McKenna and Eleanor Lam; Audrey and Christopher Galang; Connor Dannhausen; and number 14 on the way; brother-in-law H. Richard Dannhausen; sisters-in-law Barbara Dannhausen and Jan Dannhausen; and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

She was preceded in death by her father, Lawrence Beckwith; mother, Ella Marie “Helen” Beckwith; guardian, Anna V. O’Malley; brother, John Beckwith, and his wife, Joanne; and brother-in-law Jack Griffin. 

The family will hold a celebration of Mary’s life when it is safe to gather, at a place she loved. Memorials can be made to Neighbor to Neighbor Caregivers, who helped improve so many of Mary’s days; and to the Egg Harbor Historical Society. The family thanks all those who made her final days better, especially the caregivers of Unity Hospice.

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