Home: Salt Lake City, Utah
Death Date: May 26, 2017
Birthdate: December 24, 1920
Place Of Birth: San Bernardino, California
Her smile says it all! After a long, happy, healthy and fulfilling life, Mary Matson Sidler LaBonte, age 96, died at home on May 26, 2017, in the warm embrace of her daughters - Joan, Lynn and Toni. A devoted dog-lover since childhood, she was also watched over by family pets, Lucy and Roxy, who wouldn't stray far from her side.
Mary was born in San Bernardino, Calif., on December 24, 1920 - a Christmas gift to her parents, Max and Gladys Gregory Sidler, and her four older siblings. When her brothers and sisters complained that she was the spoiled youngest child, she would happily reply, "Don't you wish you were me?" That positive outlook never diminished! With her welcoming smile, she made new friends with ease, whether in line at the grocery store or at highway rest stops on family camping trips!
Mary's work career began in childhood as she greeted customers at the family business, Sidler Pipe & Steel. She graduated from San Bernardino High School and Valley College, and worked during her student days at the S. H. Kress store. There, she further honed her lifelong secretarial and shorthand skills, though she claimed her shifts at the toy counter were her favorites!
She met the love of her life, Clarence Anthony LaBonte, double-dating at a Balboa Beach dance. She went with "the other fella" ... and returned with Clarence! They married on June 7, 1942. Soon after, he shipped off to Panama to assist in the war effort. Among her treasured memories was befriending the soldiers as she rode a troop train from Calif. to Florida on the way to join Clarence in Panama. They spent the first three years of their marriage there, where she was a secretary for the U.S. Navy and he ran machinery pulling warships through the Panama Canal.
Returning to Calif., they lived for a time at Newport Beach, and then raised their three daughters in the house Clarence built for them in San Bernardino. It was a loving, nurturing home where family and friends were always welcomed with Mary's natural hospitality. She was active in the PTA and Canasta Club, supported the girls' school and social activities, and had secretarial jobs with the schools. She loved hosting holiday gatherings for extended family, and her lifelong "best friendship" with her two sisters was a shining example now followed by her daughters.
A talented seamstress, Mary created beautiful dresses for her daughters (and their dolls!), costumes for dance recitals, and even draperies for their home. In the kitchen, she enjoyed "family fame" for her oatmeal cookies, chili beans, ham and scalloped potatoes, home-canned peaches, and fruitcake (ugh)!
In 1965, the family moved to Kaysville, Utah, when Clarence was transferred to Hill AFB. Mary also worked at the base, retiring only after ensuring that all three daughters had graduated from college. She and Clarence lived in Kaysville and at their Flaming Gorge summer home until moving to SLC in 1998. For many years at "the Gorge," they enjoyed hosting family and friends for boating, waterskiing, and fishing. Mary was an outstanding fisherwoman!
Mary lovingly cared for Clarence in their home for five years prior to his passing in 2005. Her devotion to him was matched only by her strength, and ability to keep smiling, as she later faced her own health challenges.
Always a "California Girl" at heart, among Mary's favorite places were Balboa and Newport, the orange groves of Redlands, and Lake Gregory, named for her grandfather. She loved "her girls," her dogs, dancing, singing, raising puppies, U of U basketball, milkshakes, peanut butter sandwiches, nursery rhymes, and spending time with family and friends.
She is survived by her daughters and their families: Joan and Fred Cvar, Lynn and John Strong, Toni Lehtinen, Kerry Lehtinen; grandchildren Andy Cvar, Emily Cvar (Ted) Ripko, Sidney Strong (Carson) May, Jenna Strong (Pat) Farr, Jack Strong, and Matson Lehtinen; great-grandchildren Max and Luka Ripko, and Bode and Halle May; and her nephew (aka "little brother"), M. Jerry Reece.
Special love and thanks to Mary's dear friends Sandy Daniels, Jan Cain, Kathy Hill, and Art Swindle for the love, care, companionship and joy they brought into her life. A family graveside service and burial will take place at Montecito Memorial Park in San Bernardino, Calif. In lieu of flowers, Mary would want you to keep smiling ... and make a new friend!