Mary-Louise Strong Rhodes

image of Mary-Louise Strong Rhodes

Mary-Louise Strong Rhodes

Mary-Louise Strong Rhodes, age 94, of Kirkland, WA, died peacefully on August 19, 2017. Born on March 3, 1923, in New York City, Mary-Louise was the daughter of Ludlow Potter Strong and Alice deRosset Strong, and the younger sister of Frederick deRosset Strong.

She began studying piano at an early age, and it became her life’s passion. She attended the Todhunter School for Girls (now the Dalton School); the Professional Children’s School, where she studied under Madame Bertha Svecenski; and Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, where she played Octavio Pinto’s “Scenes Infantes” for her graduation recital. She returned to New York City to Juilliard School of Music, after which she toured as accompanist/soloist for a featured ballerina.

Mary-Louise at age 19

She married Paul DeWitt Urbano on New Year’s Eve, 1942. After War II, they lived in Cambridge, MA, where Paul completed his studies at Episcopal Divinity School by which time they had one daughter, Marilou DeWitt.  Paul’s first church was St. James’ Episcopal in South Pasadena, CA. Daughters Pauline deRosset and Alice Strong were born, and then the family moved to Beaumont, CA. In 1952, Paul accepted a calling to be the first Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Phoenix, AZ, and during the next few years, they had two more children, daughter Francesca and son Paul DeWitt, Jr.

While raising her five children, Mary-Louise taught piano and accompanied classes at the

Mama with all the kids at the piano ca 1955

Lindgren-Tyven School of Ballet in exchange for ballet lessons for her four daughters. She also played tennis and volunteered with the Jr. League of Phoenix, Recording for the Blind, and John C. Lincoln Hospital. Her daughters remember wonderful music in the house, from Bach to Broadway tunes, and spontaneous talent shows were not uncommon.

In 1967, Mary-Louise and Paul were divorced, and in 1969, she moved to Wilmington, NC, to be near her parents. She was married two years later to William B. Rodman, a retired Navy Captain, until his death in 1987.  In Wilmington, she joined the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, and became Chairman of her branch, was a Sustaining Member of the Jr. League of Wilmington, and attended St. James Episcopal Church, where she was a lay reader. In 1989, she married Edward W. Rhodes, a retired advertising executive from Minnesota, whom she met on a charity cruise on the Cape Fear River.

In 2004, Mary-Louise’s beloved son Paul died. In 2009, she and Ed moved across the country to Merrill Gardens in Kirkland, WA, to be near daughters Marilou, Alice, and Francesca. Ed died in 2011.

At Merrill Gardens, Mary-Louise served as hospitality chair and chair of the Resident Council. She practiced the piano daily, sometimes on the Lobby piano, concentrating on Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, and Debussy. She was in the Jr. League Book Club and attended St. John’s Episcopal Church, where she was a lay reader. She studied Japanese, attended Yoga and Zumba classes, and rarely missed a “happy hour” in the bistro.

Mary-Louise is survived by daughters Marilou Rolfe (James) of Bellevue, WA; Pauline Hechler (Gene) of Phoenix, AZ; Alice Urbano of Edmonds, WA; and Francesca Kerr (Richard) of Edmonds, WA; nine grandchildren, Kimberly Failla (Michael Sheehan), Bradford Hines, Beau Crosetto (Kristina), Gina Hurford (John), Anne Schodde (Allen), Phoebe Fox (Michael), David King (Kimberly), Michael Kerr, and Christopher Kerr; and 12 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 30, at 10:00 a.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kirkland, WA. The family thanks the people at Merrill Gardens, Lifecare Center, Majestic Senior Care, and Evergreen Hospice – all in Kirkland, WA — who took such a loving interest in Mary-Louise, and cared for her so patiently during the last months of her extraordinary life. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to St. John’s at 105 State Street South, Kirkland, WA 98033, EvergreenHealth Foundation at, or a local animal shelter.

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