The Death of Mary Wickes

Mary Wickes
June 13, 1910 – October 22, 1995
“Women like me. They think I’m wholesome or something.”

Everyone knows who Mary Wickes was, if not by name, certainly by appearance.She was, without a doubt, one ofthe best-known character actresses ever. Probablymost famous to the “now” generation as Sister Mary Lazarus, the olderhook nosed nun in Sister Act, she was also in White Christmas, NowVoyager, The Music Man, and Postcards from the Edge. She alsodid a ton of television: she was cousin Octavia on The Waltons, she wasin Sigmund & the Sea Monsters and I Love Lucy, where shefamously played Lucy’s ballet teacher. In real life, Mary was a good friendwith Lucy, which was no easy feat. Her last role was the voice of a gargoyle inDisney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, completed a few days before herdeath.

Here’s something interesting: the LA Times listed her age as 85 in herobituary, yet her death certificate says she was only 79. Other sources say shewas 83. I dunno. The woman was old. And funny.

In 1995, She was living at 2160 CenturyPark East, in LA. 

Here is herbuilding. 

When I was taking the photographs, a woman who lives there told methat Don Adams and Fay Wray still live there. In October, Mary was in goodhealth, but was taken to the UCLA Medical Centerfor respiratory problems. 

During her stay, Mary fell and broke her hip,prompting surgery. She died of complications following that surgery. She was asold as she was. friend Scott Williamssends in this explanation of Mary’s cause of death, for which we are trulygrateful.  Amen:

Immediate cause of death:

1) Acute Renal Failure: Can’t make pee. Shutdown or death of the Kidneys. Poisons and fluids (as well as Medications) cannotbe voided and back up and overload the body to toxic levels.

2) Massive Gastrointestinal Bleed. Shittingblood. Can be from a bleeding ulcer or tumor in the stomach, esophagus, orintestines. These can be massive and sudden and unexpected, and kill you quick;or be so slight and slow that no symptoms are seen. Of course, the word”Massive” is used here. Note the “Peptic Ulcer” (same thing)under “other”. She had a history of “G.I. Bleed” andintestinal ulceration. By the way, an ulcer, by definition, is an infected soreof the gastro-intestinal lining that goes below the mucosal protactive layer andinvades the flesh of the organ, causing bleeding.

3) Severe Hypotension: Super low bloodpressure. She couldn’t keep her pressure up.( I wonder just how long she HADbeen bleeding). The death cert notes this as “weeks” in duration. Thiscould be a complication of continuous G.I. Bleeding at a steady rate before itbecame “Massive”, or related to a failing heart, see 4.

4) Ischemic Cariomyopathy: Clogged heartarteries. The chronic lack of adequate blood / oxygen supply to the heart makingit weaker by the day. Note again, in “other”, Myocardial infarction,or plainly, Heart Attack. Again, history of heart damage. “Ischemic”means literally “lack of oxygen” applying specifically to tissues.Cardiomyopathy implies a long term heart condition, always progressive, untiltoo few cells are left alive to pump, or the heart is so scarred and enlargedthat, even pumping, it can’t contract completely, or empty itself efficientlyenough, to support an adequate blood pressure to supply the tissues and organswith an adequate oxygen supply.

Two other things in the “Other conditions / aka”Contributing factors”, are “Anemia”, which is simply”not enough red blood cells in the blood”, as well as “BreastCancer”.

Mary was a confirmed bachelor (read DYKE), and had no surviving family. Her funeral washeld at All Saints Episcopal Church,in Beverly Hills, the following Saturday afternoon. 

I went, but couldn’t getin. Had to stand outside and listen to Lucie Arnaz Lucked-up-enbill speak. Iremember Kathy Najimy was there, looking good, Tracy Nelson (Mary was also in TheFather Dowling Mysteries), and the guy that USED to play Edward Quartermaineon General Hospital, not the more recent, horrible one. I do remember themtaking Mary’s casket out, and hearing her clunking around in there. She wasnot a tiny lady.  Here is a copy of the funeralprogram. 

Anyway, according to the information I have, Mary was then cremated and flownback east for burial. The cemetery I have listed is the Shiloh Cemetery, inShiloh, Illinois. BTW, Mary was born in St. Louis.

UPDATE, MARCH 2001: friends, Sandy and Chris, ventured to thecemetery, and snapped thisgreat pic of Mary’s tombstone. 

 Thanks guys.  My pal, Jim, told methat Mary is buried only 20 feet from Abraham Lincoln’s parents.  Greattrivia.  Cheers.

Correction, December 2001:  I am something of a “Lincoln buff” and wanted to set that straight.

Abraham’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried in Southern Indiana, having died from “milk sickness”. Afterward his father, Thomas Lincoln remarried Sarah Bush Lincoln and the family moved to rural Coles County, which is quite a ways from St Clair county, the location of Shiloh according to their website.

Tom and Sarah Lincoln are buried in Coles County.  –  Donald Gorsage

Mary had a lot of money when she died. She made a $2 million bequest, made inmemory of her parents, which has become the Isabella and Frank Wickenhauser (her birthname) Memorial Library Fund for Television, Film and Theater Arts.  Maybeshe was a cheapskate.  I wrote her a fan letter a few years back,requesting an autograph.  She responded, but all she did was cut off thebottom of my letter, and sign it.  Usually people send signedphotographs.  Honestly, she didn’t have to respond at all, but I justthought it was odd.  Here itis.

Her personal correspondence is sealed until 2027 by request of the Trustee ofthe Mary Wickes Estate. That would be an interesting read, but then, I’m justnosey.

 December 2004, from Findadeath friend Bob:

Hi, Scott

Thanks for the info you posted on the passing of Mary Wickes and her
final resting place.

She was always one of my favourite character actresses, and it is
amazing how many projects she worked on over the length of her career.

I laughed when you commented about her "lifelong bachelor" status. I
remember being in the audience for the old game show "Tattletales",
which featured three celebrity couples, competing to see how well the
knew each other, and seeing Mary during one of the taping sessions.  She
was on with a male friend, another character actor who always played
foppish queens, which was definitely not a stretch for him.  I can't
remember the guy's name, but I had guessed at the time that being gay
was something they had in common.

Thanks for fillingin some of the blanks about this greatly missed


Bob Bernstein

Thanks, Bob!

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