Mary Leigh Schaaf (Borcherding) Ries (1956 – 2016)
Mary Leigh Schaaf (Borcherding) Ries joined the angel choir at age 60, on April 24, 2016, in Columbus, OH. Beloved mother to her two adult children, Jennifer Scholl and Joseph Kington. Beloved grandmother to her 3-year-old granddaughter, Lily, the light of her life. She also leaves behind her older sisters, Phyllis (Steven) McElhaney of Richmond, Virginia, Nancy (Jim) Lowry of Jacksonville, Florida and Arielle (Jacque) Honstettre of Monts, France; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, former in-laws, a mentally deranged chihuahua, Calvin “The Destroyer of Rugs,” and a house full of stuff we have no idea what to do with. She was greeted in heaven by her parents Ralph and Lucile (Guille) Borcherding, her beloved twin grandchildren Jonah and Sophia, her beloved friends Lori Reinhart and Pat Tekulve, and an enormous herd of aunts, uncles and cousins.
Mary was a funny, quirky, loving woman with a huge heart and boundless creativity. Born in a blizzard in 1956 and raised in Cincinnati, OH, she graduated 17th in a class of nearly 2,000, at Lyons Township High in 1974, in Chicago, IL. She just missed her chance to go to high school with David Hasselhoff, a fact which greatly disappointed her in years to come. A graduate of Western Kentucky University in 1978, she was a triple major in French, Spanish and Latin, and she was fluent in all three. You hadn’t lived until you’d seen Mom correct a priest’s Latin. They don’t like that. She was a gifted artist with exceptional drawing and painting skills. She had a beautiful soprano, and was singing solos in church from an early age. She was able to make doll clothes just by eyeing the doll and cutting the pattern. She was a creative and popular teacher at her church’s Wednesday night CCD classes, and went on to pursue teaching full time.
Alas, her first battle with cancer prematurely ended her career. Nonetheless, she had a great talent for making the best of a bad situation. During that first round of cancer, she discovered a new hobby for those traumatizing ambulance transports: groping the bulging muscles of a handsome firefighter/EMT while pretending to be in a dissociative fugue. Few of America’s heroes went unmolested in her presence. Having grown up across the street from her church, she developed a love of Jesus so pure that she once was beside herself with joy when she saw His picture at a gas station parking lot. Her snotty children then ruined the moment by pointing out that “Jesus” was holding a soccer ball and a bottle of Gatorade, and was actually soccer star Alexi Lalas.
A nurturer by nature, she was a mother to all kids who crossed her path, but reserved her greatest talent for her biological children: helicopter parenting. Like an Apache helicopter storming a beach in ‘Nam while blaring “Ride of the Valkyries,” thus was much teenage fun ruined at her deft hand. When her children reached adulthood, she finally landed the chopper for good, and became their closest and most loyal friend. Alas, Mom was not skilled in all areas of life. Her sense of style was gloriously naive. She was truly shocked that the people of France were not more enthusiastic about her ensemble when she stepped off the plane in Paris: a jumpsuit patterned entirely in American flags. We all know how much the French love Americans, but Mom never got that memo and insisted to the end that her outfit was fabulous, thank you very much.
As a cook, she didn’t believe in recipes, and preferred winging it as she went along. We wished she’d just use a darn cookbook already. She began her culinary career in high school, when she decided to bake her classmates brownies. She told her teacher that the little green flecks were oregano. Mom was a woman who lived life her way and didn’t care what people thought. She danced at every wedding like no one was watching. Except everyone was watching, including the videographer. She was the highlight of many a wedding video. We will miss her humor, her quirks, her love and generosity, and her politically insensitive interpretation of Karaoke. Our eyebrows may be safe, but our lives are a lot less joyful.
There will be a memorial service on Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. at Lord of Life Lutheran Church on Dublin-Granville Road, Columbus, OH. The family will be present for an hour before the service to greet mourners. A table of Mom’s treasured collection will be set out for people to choose from and take mementos. Seriously, please take her stuff, we’re up to our eyeballs in Christmas wreaths. Mary will be buried on the Ries family farm in Mt. Vernon, IN. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.
Published in The Columbus Dispatch on Apr. 28, 2016