Mary Elizabeth McKenna
Mary Elizabeth McKenna (nee John) died on August 1, 2020, at the age of 97. The longest living member of the Minnesota Branch of NLAPW, she was a modest, sweet, caring, and strong woman. She seemed to prefer listening rather than talking, although she probably had more to talk about than anyone.
Born and raised in Browerville, Minnesota, McKenna studied and practiced teaching at St. Cloud State (career 1) before joining the U.S. Cadet Nurses program in World War II and serving in Washington, D.C. (career 2).
She met her beloved husband, Peter “Pete” J. McKenna Jr., when he was a patient on her ward, and when they were married in June 1949, she began her third and fourth careers as wife and mother. Returning to Minnesota in 1951, the family lived first in Minneapolis and then Richfield, where, in her fifth career, McKenna and her husband ran a Catholic gift store called the Marian Shop for 15 years. She returned briefly to nursing before launching her sixth and seventh careers as published author and professional volunteer.
As a writer, McKenna got most of her inspiration from the large family that was buzzing all around her. As a volunteer, she provided thousands of hours of pastoral care at Abbott Hospital; delivered Meals on Wheels; supported numerous activities at Assumption Church, including writing the definitive history of the parish, which she joined in 1954 and continued to sustain for more than 65 years; and served as a global ambassador for the Friendship Force, a people-to-people program launched by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter that brought the McKennas to a dozen countries throughout the world.
Over her long life, she has met presidents, kings, Hollywood celebrities — and even a pope or two — but never lost her small-town values and senses of humility, compassion, pure wonder, joy, and laughter about all the opportunities God opened to her.
McKenna was passionate about travel and never missed an opportunity to visit a relative or friend anywhere on Earth, often (to Pete’s utter bewilderment) detouring hundreds of miles to enjoy a single cup of coffee with an otherwise long-lost pal. She did the driving, as her husband was blinded while in the service during WW ll. They liked visiting the Pen Arts, the NLAPW national headquarters in Washington, D.C. McKenna had strong friendships with several of the NLAPW presidents, besides visiting relatives living in D.C.
The sweet, quiet, talented Mary McKenna will be missed.
Rosemary Byrd Lee Potter, Ed.D., 81, of Clearwater, Florida, died on June 7, 2020.
Potter was an innovative educator with a 39-year teaching career in public education. Her creative spirit and energy overflowed the classroom and she was always an enthusiastic faculty member, joining with her colleagues in many extra projects like musical drama productions.
A prolific writer, she authored a number of books on educational topics and trends, texts of reading materials, college texts, and hundreds of newspaper columns and articles on subjects of television for children, parenting, and antiquing. Her writings include “The Positive Use of Commercial Television With Children,” middle-school teaching materials, several children’s books, and an autobiographical youth novel titled “4 the Rest of My Kisses.”
Potter was an active member of Pen Women and Phi Delta Kappa, which sent her around the United States to present her PDK Fastback books. She had long-running columns (more than 360), which were syndicated in several newspapers.
She felt her most meaningful bit of writing were not her plays or poems but her inspirational Christian book, “The Stubborn Ear,” a lively invitation to be still and deepen your relationship with God. She called it “the purple book” and would give it to people as part of her own joyous Christian mission. Potter was active in St. Paul United Methodist Church of Largo and always enjoyed conversing with others and especially interviewing hundreds of folks about their treasures for articles and storytelling such as “Cabin’s ghosts.”
Potter loved the outdoors and travel. Her other passions were family, church, writing, music, and dance. She could play piano and was known for the many beautiful poems and prayers written for family. For decades, she planned the Christmas Readings gatherings of her friends and family at the Potter place to share holiday spirits.
Dr. Myra F. Levick
Myra Levick, 96, was a beloved art and letters member of the Boca Raton Branch, Florida. She served on the board and was treasurer, a job she handled efficiently and graciously. She also served as a parliamentarian for the Florida State NLAPW.
Levick earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Moore College, a master’s in education from Temple University, and a doctorate in psychology from Bryn Mawr College. She became a clinical psychologist and helped establish the field of art therapy, including the development of America’s first graduate program in art therapy at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia — which subsequently combined music and dance into a comprehensive creative arts therapy program.
Levick studied with Sigmund Freud’s sister, Anna, in London. She wrote many books, including a textbook on art therapy and 36 articles in professional journals. Her final book was “Dear Myra Dear Max – a Conversation about Aging.”
When she and her husband, Leonard, moved to Florida, she planned to retire. That never happened. Levick became a cherished member of the Pen Women of Boca Raton.
She established the South Florida Psychotherapy Institute and developed the art therapy program for the Miami Dade County school system. She was a director of three graduate training programs in art, dance movement, and music therapy. The Myra Levick Award for Excellence in Art Therapy was initiated by the American Art Therapy Association to honor her. Levick was a living example of the power and independence of women and she carved her own path in the male-dominated milieu of medicine and health sciences. She was a powerful advocate for child development, education, the arts, and mental health. She was a passionate leader, visionary, mentor, and dear friend who touched the lives of so many. Myra Levick will be missed every day.
—Submitted by Boca Raton Branch Chaplain Barbara Lunde