It was her mother’s wish that when she died, family and friends would gather and celebrate her life with a good old Texas barbecue. And so on Saturday, September 7, Mary Hector’s daughter, Mary Whitney, is doing just that.
Mary Hector was born on the family farm near Sherman, Texas in 1916. The farm was near Denison, Texas, and the family had a winter home there just a couple of doors down from a family from Kansas named Eisenhower. Mary’s mother would tell her how she held the Eisnehower’s son, Dwight David , on her lap when he was just a baby.
Mary was the youngest of seven children in the Steele family. Like many people from her generation, growing up in the “Great Depression,” Mary came to California in 1938. One of her brothers had already moved to California and found a job as a chauffer for William Wrigley. He was able to get Mary a job as a maid at the Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena. Eventually her mother and two more brothers came to work for the Wrigleys. She and her mom lived in the maid’s quarters in the mansion’s basement.
In 1940 while working as a waitress in Hollywood, Mary met a young man named Howard Hector, who was a mechanic at a nearby auto repair shop. In 1941, Howard purchased a house being built on California Street just north of Burbank Blvd. It was one of the first houses on the street. It would become their family home. When Howard was drafted into the Army in 1942, the young couple decided to go to Las Vegas and get married before he left to fight in World War II. They were married for 38 years before Howard’s death.
During the 65 years that Mary Hector lived in Burbank, she raised her three children, watched her grandsons grow up, and enjoyed the pleasures of being a great-grandparent. Her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren affectionately called her Mermaw.
When her children were in school, Mary was active in the PTA at Bret Harte Elementary School, Luther Burbank Junior High School, and John Burroughs High School. She received a Honorary Life Membership from the Bret Harte PTA for her outstanding service.
She was a member of the Little White Chapel Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, for 70 years. She was involved with the Christian Women’s Fellowship at the church, and hosted their annual rummage sales in her backyard. A tireless worker, she was always there when the work needed to be done, and rarely stayed to take credit. She worked into her 80’s at the Burbank Board of Realtors, where she served coffee and doughnuts at their weekly meetings.
Mary was very close to her brothers and sisters, and her nieces and nephews. She loved to have big family reunions. She and her husband enjoyed going on trips, first in their trailer, and later in their motor home.
Mary died on July 27, at age 97, in a nursing home in San Gabriel where she spent the last six years of her life. She is survived by her daughters, Mary Whitney of Burbank, and Joyce Cole and her husband Curtis of Fresno. She is also survived by her grandsons, Howard Whitney and his wife Kelly; Kevin Whitney, and Chris Whitney and his wife Jill; and four great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, her son Howard Mase Hector, and son-in-law Kent Whitney.
The celebration of Mary Hector’s life will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, September 7, at the home of her daughter, Mary Whitney, at 1027 N. Lamer St., Burbank All who knew Mary are invited to attend. Per her request, the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” will be sung at the celebration. In addition, her daughter is decorating her home with yellow roses. A big yellow rose wreath now adorns the front door.