Cover photo for Mary Dee Peyton's Obituary
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1926 Mary 2021

Mary Dee Peyton

December 13, 1926 — August 7, 2021

Mary Dee Shirley Peyton passed away on Saturday, August 7, 2021, at the Gothenburg Health Hospital in Gothenburg, NE. at the age of 94. She broke her hip and developed pneumonia after the hip operation. She was born on December 13, 1926, in Venus, Johnson County, Texas. Mary Dee was the third of five children born to LeRoy Shirley and Bertha Mae (Woolard) Shirley.

Mary Dee graduated from Robert Lee Paschal High School in Ft. Worth, Texas at the age of nineteen on the 30th of July 1945. Later that same year she married Mack Peyton, Jr. of Richmond, Indiana. They were married on August 17, 1945, at the Post Chapel of Ft. Bragg in Muscogee County, Georgia by the US Army Chaplain. Mary Dee’s children always liked to tell the tale about the girl from Texas and the boy from Indiana meeting in Wyoming, marrying in Georgia and eventually living in Nebraska.

Mack and Mary Dee lived in Wyoming after Mack returned from WWII. Mack was attending the University of Wyoming to earn his teaching degree at that time. His first teaching and coaching job was in Rock Springs, Wyoming. In 1958/9 the Peyton family lived in Roswell, New Mexico where Mack taught and coached at the New Mexico Military Institute. After Mack received his master’s degree from the University of Wyoming in the summer of 1960, the family moved to Chadron, Nebraska where Mack was a coach and teacher at Chadron State College. Four years after Mack died in 1980, Mary Dee moved to Lexington to be near her children. In 2012 she moved into Assisted Living at Stone Hearth Estates in Gothenburg and in 2020 the Care Home, Hilltop Estates, in Gothenburg became her home.

In 1960, Mary Dee entered college at Chadron State. Her oldest daughter, Judy, was beginning high school as a freshman and Mary Dee began her college career the same year. The two graduated from their respective schools in 1964. Mary Dee was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She began teaching at Chadron Public Schools that same year. She taught Earth Sciences and English to Jr. High students, and she taught for a total of ten years.

Mary Dee and Mack loved to be out in nature. The liked to go rock and agate hunting in the lands around Chadron. They enjoyed picnicking with their children and the home movies show the family’s adventures in the hills of Wyoming. Fishing trips were in those movies also. Mack and Mary Dee also loved to bird watch and any outing involved keeping an eye out for the birds. One of the activities Mary Dee enjoyed was volunteering at the Eagle viewing area south of Lexington along with her son, Mark. They went many times to a blind on the Platte River to watch the Sandhill Cranes in the spring.

Mack taught Outdoor Education classes at CSC and Mary Dee was always involved in the classes too. When Mack took his classes into the Wind River Mts of Wyoming, Mary Dee went along. Getting to the campground at the top of the mountain involved a long hike and sometimes a ride on a horse. She would sleep in a tent, cook over a fire, bathe in the lake, and participate in all the class activities along with the students. Two weeks later she would hike down the mountain back to civilization.

During the summers Mary Dee and Mack would take graduate classes together. One such class was in Michigan and another in Texas. They enjoyed visiting with near-by relatives in their time away from the classes.

Mary Dee learned to play golf and enjoyed playing with Mack. She was in a golf league in Chadron along with her daughter, Becky.

One activity Mack could not get Mary Dee to do well was swimming. One time in the college’s old swimming pool, Mary Dee jumped off the diving board at Mack’s insistence. She went right to the bottom of the pool and stayed there. Mack had to swim down and rescue her.

With Mack being a coach, Mary Dee and the children went to a bushelful of baseball and basketball games. The children received lectures on how to behave at the games. Of course, they did not always follow her instructions. They had been to too many games. One time, (she would say it did not happen) she gave them all a swat on the behind before they went to the game and promised more afterwards.

Mary Dee loved to play cards and her mind and hands were quick on the draw. After moving to Lexington, she belonged to five Bridge clubs. She loved to put puzzles together and she dabbled in watercolor paintings too. She raised beautiful flowers any where she lived and in Lexington, she belonged to the Iris Society and raised Irises of many colors in her garden. She liked to keep her hands busy and would crochet, knit, do counted cross stitch, or make quilts in her spare time. She attended several quilt conventions with her daughter, Judy.

Crocheting was her favorite handwork. Once she had a goal of making two hundred potholders of a certain pattern. They were made of cotton crochet thread (think doilies) in assorted colors, and she had the pattern memorized. When the potholders were finished, she gave them away to whoever asked for one. She did not want to keep them; her enjoyment was in the doing. She also made fifty Barbie doll dresses of which Mark took twenty-five of them to Cuba on one of his trips to that country.

Mary Dee developed macular degeneration in her eyes and was treated for the disease for more than fifteen years. She was left with just a small amount of peripheral sight in one eye. She could not do any of her handwork then and that is the one thing she missed the most as she grew older.

Daughter, Becky lived next door to Mary Dee for twenty-three years in Lexington. Mark and his family would visit from Gothenburg and Judy would come from Arapahoe. Mary Dee called the area the Peyton triangle.

Mary Dee will be missed by her three children: Judith Lynn (Gary) Thompson, Rebecca Jo Peyton, and Mark Mandel (Cindy Baalhorn) Peyton. She had a basketball team of grandchildren. Warren “Mack” (Andra) Thompson, Casey William (Nicole) Thompson, Andrew Wade (Jennifer) Thompson, Reece Everett Peyton, and Alex Dean Peyton. Great Grandchildren include W. Mack’s sons, Malachi Lander and Noah Skyler Thompson, Casey’s children, Emily Ann, Tristin Miles and Peyton James Thompson, Andrew’s children, Cole Hunter and Paige Kenzie Thompson and Reece’s daughter, Emilia Jo Peyton.

Mary Dee was preceded in death by her parents and her siblings; Parents, LeRoy and Bertha Shirley, brother, LeRoy Stephen Shirley (Edna Earl), sister, Billie Crickett Mills (Royce), brother, Byron Kenneth who was called Cy and brother Jay Randol Shirley (Wanda). A special niece to Mary Dee is Cindy Dee Reichert of Arlington, Texas.

At her request, Mary Dee will be cremated and interned at the Salem Presbyterian Church’s cemetery north of Gothenburg, NE. There will be a short service at the grave site later this fall that will be attended by family members. The Berryman Funeral Home of Cozad is in charge of the arrangements

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