July 13, 1947 - March 10, 2020
Surrounded in love with her six children, Marybeth Pierce died with serenity in Palo Alto, California on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
Marybeth was a vivacious woman, full of life, laughter and hospitality. She welcomed people of all faiths, nationalities and backgrounds into her home and into her heart. She fed her extended children and the homeless, was a vocal advocate for those who were marginalized, and held strong convictions of equality, freedom and conservation.
Marybeth respected family history and lineage, preserved Irish cultural traditions, never forgot birthdays and celebrated holidays with handwritten cards and hand-crafted decorations. She was solar-powered and felt most comfortable in nature, especially gardens.
Marybeth came into the world in Glen Ellyn, Illinois on July 13, 1947, the first daughter to Joseph and Rosemary Boyle (nee Joyce). She was raised alongside her brothers Joseph and Daniel, and sister Rosemary (“Babe”) in the countryside of Round Lake, Illinois. After high school she entered Mount Carmel convent in Dubuque, Iowa and continued her studies at Mundelein College, overlooking Lake Michigan. Marybeth went on to teach elementary school at St. Gilbert’s School in Grayslake.
She met her husband, Thomas Pierce, in 1968 and got married on July 4, 1971. A few years later she gave birth to her first child, Bridget. Tom and Marybeth moved west to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Marybeth first discovered California - a place that would pull her heart for decades to come. Marybeth gave birth to her son Daniel and daughter Mary at Stanford Hospital. After a few years in the Bay, the family returned to Chicagoland where Patrick and Brendan were born.
In the early 1980s, the Pierce Family migrated back to California, to the mission town of San Juan Capistrano. Marybeth blossomed in Orange County as a devoted mother, community volunteer and beachgoer. After five years, the family returned to Chicago, where Marybeth and Tom welcomed their bonus baby, Ellen, in Wilmette.
Despite already having created a full house, Marybeth’s concept of family extended well beyond her sons, daughters, nieces and nephews. Her children’s friends were her children. She welcomed students from numerous countries under her roof, and built a bridge with an Australian Sister City that will last for generations.
Marybeth was a fixture at countless basketball, baseball and football games across the North Shore for 25 years, chanting and singing alongside her fellow Trevian moms. She spent summers at Gilson Beach, winters in Antioch, Illinois, and Sundays at Saints Faith, Hope and Charity.
As she and Tom launched their children into their adult lives, Marybeth reinvented herself. Bringing new life to old treasures, Marybeth started Shorebirds, a small business in Wilmette that was beyond a typical antique store - it was a studio of creativity, design and sisterhood. Marybeth and her mother were also staples at Wilmette’s Saturday morning farmers markets, where they sold vintage garden accessories and bonded with new friends over a passion for flowers and a thirst for genuine conversation.
Marybeth became a remarkable athlete and inspirational teammate in her 60’s, joining Recovery on Water to further strengthen her body and spirit through breast cancer.
In her final years, Marybeth’s most-prized possessions were her 12 “grands.” Each one her “favorite,” they were soothed by Nana’s lullabies and gentle touch, and each brought Nana immense joy, wonder and simplicity when she craved it most.
In addition to her children, grands, friends and caregivers that helped her through illness over the last few years, we send our gratitude to the nurses, doctors and therapists from Northwestern Hospital and Stanford Hospital. Not only did they provide Marybeth with exceptional medical care, but they treated her human soul with dignity and grace.
Marybeth was the wife of Thomas J. Pierce; loving mother of Bridget (Thomas) Papanicholas, the late Thomas J., Daniel C. (Laura Karam), Mary (David) Ramenofsky, Patrick C. (Lauren), Brendan I. (Kori), and Ellen (Peter) Bolton; devoted grandmother of Declan, Gus, and Mary, Papanicholas, Amelia Pierce, Leo, Romy, and Nell Ramenofsky, Patrick “Bo,” Rudy, and Emmett Pierce, Fintan and Sloane Pierce; dear sister of Joseph (Sally Ryan) Boyle, Daniel (Doris Kozlowski) Boyle, and Rosemary "Babe" (Thomas) Coover; and caring aunt of 26 nieces and nephews.
A private mass was held in Los Altos, California on Friday, March 13th, 2020. A celebration to honor Marybeth’s fullness of life is planned for the Summer of 2020 in Chicago. Visit the Celebration page for more information.