Mary Ann Wickham
Dec. 5, 1932-Jan.23, 2018
Twenty days before Christmas 1932, Mary Ann was born the fourth child to George and Edna Nicholas in Wheeling, West Virginia. As the baby sister to two brothers and a sister, Mary Ann proved time and again she could carve out her unique place in an immigrant family whose members each had strong and unique attributes.
From an early age, Mary Ann exhibited confidence, determination and moxie, the type of which was generally unfamiliar to young girls along Warwood Avenue. She was very much her own woman growing up, avoiding stereotypical roles. She frequently challenged neighbors to all-or-nothing games of marbles in the alley behind her house. Much to the chagrin of her mother, she also played football with the neighborhood boys and pursued new frontiers on her bicycle in Wheeling.
Favorite family lore tells of the time Mary Ann defied her mother’s rules by riding her bike down Riley Hill Road, a famously sharp and curvy descent. Midway down, the brakes failed, sending her careening toward a busy intersection at the bottom of the hill. She somehow managed to navigate to a stop by rolling into a trash heap in the city dump. What she was not able to do was avoid her mother’s wrath when she found out.
Edna’s mantra of “There is no such word as can’t” fostered a family of consummate achievers. This became the fabric of Mary Ann’s very being, and as the youngest child, she raised her own bar. Mary Ann never shied away from challenges. Rather than quit when faced with the most daunting, she would simply noodle on a different approach, relying on her faith in God and her solemn belief in the power of prayer.
Mary Ann graduated with honors from St. Joseph’s Academy in Wheeling and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, with a double major in math and chemistry. At the time of her graduation, most of her female peers were pursuing teaching or home economics degrees.
Upon graduation from Duquesne, she married Ronald Lee Wickham, second son of the Wickham’s grocery store chain. Because the marriage between a Catholic and non-Catholic was frowned upon by the Catholic Church and forbidden by her religious family, Mary Ann and Ronnie eloped and moved to Kansas City, MO. There they settled down and raised five daughters.
Ronnie died unexpectedly just 16 years later, forcing Mary Ann into the role of single parent and breadwinner for five young children. While still mourning the loss of the love of her life, she recalculated her future.
She dusted off her double major and charted her own career path. At a time when medical technology was a just emerging field, Mary Ann worked her way up in the lab of Daniel Azarnoff at the KU Medical Center. Dr. Azarnoff’s laboratory was conducting then-cutting-edge research into cholesterol levels and their impact on the human body. This remained one of her proudest career contributions in the field of chemistry. After her time at KUMC, she also worked for the USDA and Dickey Little John in Auburn, IL.
Mary Ann was a modern woman operating in a pre-feminist era where women took notes rather than made notable career accomplishments. Mary Ann encouraged her daughters to become independent, strong women. She insisted that her girls pursue careers that they were passionate about and then work to be their best. Around many family dinnertime conversations, she said, “Be anything you want, even the garbage collector, but be the best garbage collector you can be.” Most importantly, she wanted her daughters to know in their hearts they could stand on their own two feet in life.
Mary Ann was a poet and writer. Although she never published, she exercised her craft by corresponding with two of her forward-thinking mentors－Sister Mary Grace and Sister Immaculate. She has left a treasure trove of wisdom in the form of saved letters from those decades.
Later in life with daughters raised, Mary Ann returned to being an avid reader, particularly of mysteries. On a daily basis, she completed the KC Star’s crossword puzzles and cryptograms, and she would never turn down a Scrabble challenger.
No matter what life threw her way, she never lost her sense of humor. Mary Ann gravitated to humorists such as Erma Bombeck and felt a kinship with Hallmark’s Maxine for their wry, tell-it-like-it-is humor, earning her own moniker of “Grouch.”
Surviving Mary Ann are her five daughters, Margaret Edna St. Germain, Rhonda Leigh Wickham, Mary Grace Flantzer, Ruth Ann Wickham and Monica Sue Treece; 13 grandchildren, Mark Anthony St. Germain, Luke Flantzer, Nicholas Baird, Sarah Wickham Nolte, Michael Cermak, Alex Cermak, Alexis Cermak, Madison Cermak, Amber Schumacher, Ashley Cermak, Josh Treece, Jacob Treece, Amber Treece; and four great-grandchildren: Nicholas Nolte, Savannah Nolte, Eva Schumacher and Sophie Buhr; as well as many loved extended family members.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you donate to the National Stroke Association at www.stroke.org in Mary Ann’s name.
Services will be held Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, at St. Bernadette’s, 9020 E. 51st Terr., Kansas City, MO. Visitation will be 9-10 a.m. followed by mass and lunch. Interment location: Lee’s Summit Cemetery