Wyatt, Mary Pittman

November 20, 2011

Celebration of the life Mary Pittman Wyatt Is Planned.

A cordial invitation is extended to the many friends of Mary Pittman Wyatt in the United Methodist connection to attend a celebration of Mary's life which will occur the last Saturday of Black History Month, February 25, 2-4 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church, 98 North Maple Street, Hadley. The music Mary loved will be the focus, along with shared memories of the rich heritage and many contributions of this tireless worker for the rights of all.

Mary has been a lay member of Annual Conference from Wesley United Methodist Church of Amherst, now moved to Hadley, MA for decades. Her work with the New England Conference dates to 1974. She had been a long-time participant in: Connecticut-Western Massachusetts District Council on Ministries, Southern New England Annual Conference Council on Ministries; General Council on Ministries of the United Methodist Church. She was deeply involved in the Conference Commission on Religion and Race almost from its inception.

In the 1980s Mary was twice elected to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference and was a Reserve Lay Representative to General Conference. She served on the National Committee on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. Many awards and honors for her work in the church were given her: among them the Social Justice Award in 1980, a Special Mission Recognition Award from the Central Mass. District United Methodist Women in 1996, and the Lifetime of Discipleship Award presented by the Preachers Aid Society in 2011. The Anna Howard Shaw award was given her at a ceremony at Boston University.

A spirited church and social justice activist, MARY ONEIDA PITTMAN WYATT, passed away, November 20, 2011, in Hadley, MA. Mary's participation in the historic civil rights march on Washington, DC, in 1963, where she was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, led to her living that Dream of bringing people of all ages, races, religious persuasions, and walks of life together to work for equality, justice and peace. She was the inspiration behind and organizer of the Amherst area community Scholarship Breakfast in Dr. King's memory, now in its 28th year. Ms. Wyatt was remembered at this year's Breakfast on January 14 in Amherst.

Mary Pittman Wyatt, the elder daughter of the late Andrew Spear Pittman and Vandella (Townsend) Pittman, was born June 26, 1915, in Greencastle, Indiana. At the presentation of the District UMW award, it was stated: "Church involvement was a way of life for Mary." Fortunate to study music as a child at De Pauw University's School of Music, she continued her studies with the late Warner Lawson at A&T University in Greensboro, NC. Mary "fell in love" with Massachusetts on her senior year college concert tour. She returned to Indiana, met and married James Henry Wyatt. Her son James Andrew was born in Greencastle. She and young James moved to Northampton, MA in 1954 where she and Jim soon became members of the First Methodist Church, now Christ United Methodist Church of Northampton-Easthampton. Later Wesley United Methodist Church then of Amherst, now of Hadley, became their church home.

Mary's lovely deep contralto voice placed her in great demand throughout her life. She loved music: the hymns of the church, the spirituals of her people, good jazz. She loved to dance, even when she was wheelchair-bound in later years. Employment as dietician at the Burnham School (Northampton), Smith College, and Clarke School for the Deaf preceded her working on a variety of projects in Hampshire County under the Community Action Agency. There were special assignments for Children's Aid and Family Services; a summer of traveling to various camping programs for children and young people to teach the music and history of African-Americans. This offering continued over the years in a number of schools throughout the Pioneer Valley when she participated in a program around paintings by Wesley artist Louise Minks of African-Americans who had made an impact through history and today in the Pioneer Valley, including a life-sized portrait of Mary.

In the early 1980s she became a parole officer with the Massachusetts Department of Parole. It was during this time that she served on the planning commission for the Hampshire County Jail, being built in Northampton, proudly noting that she was the only woman on the commission! After retiring from the parole board she was employed as the Meal Site Manager for Franklin County Home Care, preparing meals and programs of interest for senior citizens in Leverett and Shutesbury. Mary loved children and young people, was instrumental in bringing chaplains of color to serve the minority students at the University of Massachusetts. She was known far and wide, serving as the conscience of the community in issues of equality and justice, for which community recognition came her way, as well. She participated in the program of connecting visiting foreign students to local families; served on the Board of the local Girl Scout Council; was always eager to broaden the perspective of herself and others through arranging speakers, conferences, on-site visits to various agencies of service. Her love and care for all was a noteworthy attribute leaving her with of multitude of friends who miss her presence greatly. Mary also leaves her son James A. Wyatt of Hadley, niece Kay Lassiter Davis of Baltimore, cousins and extended family members.

This caring, tireless worker for the rights of all, leaves a truly rich heritage. Contributions would be gratefully received to the fund that has been established to insure full coverage of funeral expenses for one of our own who gave so much of her life so unselfishly to her church and the people and communities of the Valley and beyond. Contributions can be made to: the Mary P. Wyatt Memorial Fund, account # 11315574818, c/o Citizen's Bank, 456 Russell ST, Hadley, MA 01035.

Mary's life in the United Methodist Church at all levels brought her such joy and challenged those who came to know her to build bridges of understanding among all people and to rise to higher levels of service to others. Please come join the celebration on February 25.