Mary McKay Besse

  • Born: March 12, 1924
  • Died: March 21, 2021
  • Location: San Mateo, California

Sneider & Sullivan & O'Connell's Funeral Home - FD-230

977 S. El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94402
Tel. (650) 343-1804

Tribute & Message From The Family

Mary McKay Besse – Mary Besse was born Mary Ann McKay on March 12, 1924 in Portland, OR and passed away peacefully on March 21st in San Mateo, CA. As a young girl she grew up in rural St. Paul, OR and attended a one-room schoolhouse, where her mother was the teacher. She grew up amidst many cousins with a love of reading and of animals. She had a pet lamb when she was a small girl. She was the youngest of three daughters born to Stanley and Lillian (Ingalls) McKay. After losing her father at an early age, she attended Sacred Heart High School in Portland, OR and excelled academically and musically, playing piano, cello, and violin. She went on to earn a Bachelor's Degree in History and Political Science at Willamette University. Her education was interrupted by World War II, during which she worked for Selective Service and later for the State of Oregon. After the war she met the love of her life, Gale Besse, and they married in 1948. The early years of their marriage took them to several states and jobs before the family moved to San Mateo, CA in 1962. Mary was never happier than when they finally settled on Portola Drive. Always close to her sister Stella Leahy, she enjoyed decades of holidays and celebrations with the two families. Mary loved her family and friends and loved to socialize with them. She always enjoyed music, literature and poetry, history, gardening, and playing bridge. She was an active part of St. Gregory Church, especially in the Theater Guild, of which her husband was the president for some time. She and Gale loved taking cruises and enjoyed several through the years. A member of the A.A.U.W., she remained in close touch with college friends, especially those she knew through her sorority Pi Beta Phi. Mary had an excellent sense of humor which carried her through the trials and tribulations of raising a large family. In her kitchen she had a sign which read, "Who are all these children and why are they calling me Mom?"

Mary is survived by her children, daughters Madeleine and Angelique, and son Marc of San Mateo and sons Rene and Alan of Tracy, daughter Michele of Olympia,WA, and son Lee of Scots Valley. She also bids farewell to her grandchildren Mary, Jay, Jenn, Dan, Katie, Jacquelynn, Nicholas, Trevor, Jennifer, Joseph, John, Paul, and Luke and blessed great grandchildren D.J., Henry, August, Forest, Duane, Vincent, Jaylyn, small Hadley, and tiny Juniper.

Funeral services will be conducted at 12pm on Saturday, March 27th at St. Gregory Catholic Church, 28th & Hacienda in San Mateo. Interment to follow at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Los Altos. Private Vigil will be held at Sneider & Sullivan & O'Connell's Funeral Home on Friday, March 26th at 7pm.

Multa in rosa, mater.


Condolence & Memory Journal

We are so sorry to hear of Mar'spassing. May she rest in peace. Our condolences to you and your family.
Judy and Richard Olson

Posted by Judy and Richard Olson - San Mateo, CA - neighbor   March 27, 2021

With heartfelt sympathy to the Bessie family.

Posted by Sandra (Sandi) Reynolds - Belmont, CA   March 27, 2021

Mary will always have a special place in my heart. She welcomed me with open arms into her home and family many, many times over the years ... making holidays especially joyful when I wasn't able to celebrate with my own family. There was always room for one more at the Besse family table. May her memory be a blessing to all whose lives she touched.

Posted by Joan Landaiche - Avondale, AZ - friend   March 26, 2021

Our halloween and block party events as well as Christmas caroling will never be forgotten and were the envy of the town. Kids arrived by the hundreds, dropped off by unknown parents to participate in the Portola Drive festivities over the 32 years we were delighted to be friends of the Besse family. Mary will always be in our Portola memories and we will
remember her as a kind and thoughtful friend and neighbor.
Barbara and John Dillon 541-350-2262 email

Posted by Barbara & John Dillon - Friend   March 26, 2021


Mary, you will be missed . "A Grand Lady with many talents, the best of which
was raising your children. Our hearts go out to all of the family. and friends.

Posted by Joseph & Wilma Schaffer - Willits, CA - Family   March 24, 2021

Family Album