Mary Margaret Lee Niblett Key passed away peacefully Thursday, March 18, 2021. She was 104 years old and lived a long and remarkable life. During her lifetime she saw two world wars, lived through the Spanish flu of 1918, saw women gain the right to vote, struggled through the Great Depression and watched as men walked on the moon. She lived to see the invention of cell phones and computers, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and was fully vaccinated for COVID-19!
Mary was born July 11, 1916 in Lebanon, Arizona to John Doyle Lee and Carrie Elizabeth Carnes. She was the second child of seven. Mary had a happy childhood and grew up in a large, loving family where she learned the value of hard work. Her family didn’t have a lot of money, so they learned to make do with what they had. When the soles of their shoes wore out, they put cardboard in the bottom and kept on wearing them.
On July 10, 1935 Mary married Oliver Holmes Niblett. (O.H.) They had four sons; Larry, James, Delbert and Oliver Holmes Jr., who died at birth. Mary received her master’s degree in education in 1955. She was a gifted teacher and taught school for twenty years. She had a particular talent for teaching reading and spent eight of her teaching years specializing in remedial reading. She also privately tutored many students who struggled to read on their own. Mary bought children’s books by the boxful and any visiting grandchild would go home with a new book for their library. Mary was also an excellent gospel teacher and held many callings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaching youth and adults.
After retirement, Mary and O.H. moved to an 80 acre plot of farmland in Boyd, Texas that they affectionately referred to as Mockingbird Hill. They raised cattle and chickens and grew a massive garden. Mary and O.H. spent twelve years in Boyd and helped to build up the struggling Latter-day Saint branch in the Decatur area. O.H. was the branch president and he loved to invite people over for dinner after church. Mary never knew how many people might show up at her table, but she always made things stretch and no one ever went away hungry. Mary, or “Granny” as she was called by her grandchildren, was an excellent cook. Cakes, pies, home-made bread and hand cranked ice cream were some of the family favorites. Several grandsons spent their summers on the farm with Granny and Grandad and have such happy memories of this time.
In 1984, Mary and O.H. moved to Boise, Idaho to be closer to family. One of Mary’s greatest joys was working in the Boise Temple as an ordinance worker with her husband. She called it her second home. She also loved genealogy and spent one day a week with her son Delbert, researching names for temple work. They supplied hundreds of names for temple ordinance work for their extended family to perform.
Mary and Oliver’s property in Boise had numerous fruit trees, berry bushes and a large half acre garden. Mary tended to all of these with great care and never wasted anything the land produced. She canned fruits and vegetables from her property up until a year before her death.
Eight years after moving to Idaho, O.H. was diagnosed with cancer and Mary lovingly cared for him until he was called home in 1992. At almost 80, Mary found love again and married Allie Surman Key. (Bill) They were devoted to each other and to the Lord’s work. For many years they attended the Boise, Temple four days a week doing four sessions each day. They had sixteen happy years together until Bill passed in 2011.
Mary was well known for her “readings”- stories or poems that she recited from memory with a dramatic flair that delighted everyone who listened. She had dozens of them memorized. Mary was mentally sharp up until her last day on earth, singing a “ditty” about St. Peter at the golden gate early the morning before she passed.
In March of 2020, Mary moved in to live with her son Delbert and his wife Reah. They, along with other family members and wonderful hospice workers, cared for her in their home until her passing. Mary had a cheerful personality and expressed her gratitude daily to her caregivers and her Father in Heaven for the care and love of her family and the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In her last year, when she was very limited in what she could do, she faithfully wrote in her journal and read a chapter in the Book of Mormon every day. Mary was an example of strength, devotion, and love of the Lord to her family and all who knew her. She will be greatly missed.
Mary is survived by her son Delbert Niblett, her sister Lorna Lee Bowan, 15 grandchildren, 70 great-grandchildren and 116 great-great-grandchildren.
There will be a viewing and graveside service held Thursday, March 25, 2021 for family and close friends. Mary will be buried in the Meridian cemetery next to her beloved O.H.
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