On December 27, 1927, Mary Elizabeth Purtell was born in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. She was the youngest of Daniel and Catherine Purtell’s 10 children. She had as good a life as one could have, in the midst of the Great Depression. At the age of 10, Mary’s mother died. She was then sent off to live with older siblings and care for their children.
The loss of her mother and the depression shaped her life deeply. Child rearing, culinary and frugal housekeeping talents were developed and in return, Mary’s older siblings sent her to nursing school at St. Mary’s Nursing School which is now the Mary’s Mayo Methodist Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota.
While in nursing school, Mary specialized in pediatrics and met her lifelong friend Shirley Martinsen. Shortly after graduation, she met the love of her life over a spinal tap. The dashingly handsome Dr. Harris D. Hanson M.D. caught her eye and he pursued her intently. They married soon after that tap!
The first of nine children was born a year later, Jeannye (Michael) and eight more followed in fairly quick succession, Dan (Sue), John, Jule’ (Dean), William, Suzanne (Max), Mary Cal (Rick), Pete (Maria) and finally Kate (Al).
The nursing career was put on hold as you can imagine. She and Harris lived in many U.S. cities before settling in Helena in 1965. In addition to providing cultural enriching experiences for her family, Mary worked as a docent at the Montana Historical Society for 35 years and cultivated a love of Montana history. She earned her Bachelors of Nursing Degree from Carroll College in 1979, worked for the Red Cross Blood Drives Organization and Buckle-up-Your-Babes foundation at St Peter’s Hospital, Shodaire Hospital for Children as well as St. Peter’s Hospital nursery and medical floor. She was a Master Gardener/Judge and a 20+ year member of the Fort Nightly Book Club which was founded in 1890.
Mary valued family, work and community and she served them all well. She is preceded in death by her parents, all of her siblings, husband Harris and son Dan. She is survived by eight of her children, eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Mary is a shining example of a life well lived. The Helena community has played a huge role in that well lived life and her family is grateful for all the love and support. The Hanson family would like to extend a special thanks to Stone Meadow Renaissance Senior Care and Compassus Hospice for all the compassionate care they provided.
A vigil will be held at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, November 8th at Anderson Stevenson WIlke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 12:00 noon Thursday November 9th at the Cathedral of St Helena, 530 N. Ewing St. A reception will follow the Mass at the Green Meadow Country Club, 2720 Country Club Avenue. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be directed to St. Peter's Hospital Foundation, Compassus Hospice or a charity of choice. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer condolence to the family or to share a memory of Mary.