Mary Dew


Mary Katherine Dew was born in Willmar, MN on April 27, 1950 to Stanley and Martha Dew. Stanley ran the Dew Hotel in Willmar with his brother, Ran, and Martha was a traveling public health nurse.

When Mary was 7 and Marshall 5, the Dews moved to Minneapolis to be nearer to family and Stanley started working first at the Glacier Park company and then at the University of Minnesota. Mary attended school with most of her cousins, attending Clara Barton Elementary, Ramsey Middle School (now Justice Page) and Washburn High School. During this time, she would spend summers at the “family lake”, i.e. Lake Hubert in Nisswa, with her grandparents and cousins. With all her Mother’s brothers and sisters living very close, it was like living in a large extended family. Besides swimming and being with family, her other big love was reading and she kept her nose in a book much of the time.

After graduating from Washburn, she attended the University of Minnesota, at least partly because her father still worked there in hospital administration. She graduated with a degree in Social Science and needed to decide what was next.

One class required for her degree was a statistics class, set up to work in small groups. Each group would design a questionnaire on some subject, go out and solicit responses on campus and then analyze the responses using a computer statistical program. Mary, ever the introvert, made a deal with her group that if they gathered the data, she’d take care of the computer part. Turns out she was good at it and she enjoyed it.

Mary decided she could either find a job with her Social Science degree, or pursue computer work which looked to pay a lot better. Rather than going back to get yet another degree, she looked to see if a company would hire her and train her. Her brother, then working at Sperry connected Mary with a contact there. With her usual dexterity, she talked herself into a job. She not only learned how to program, she became proficient enough that she became an instructor for Sperry, traveling to customers to give detailed 2-week courses on subjects ranging from Operating Systems to Assembly Language (“The value of a symbol is its address.”) to Database Management Systems.

After several years at Sperry, Mary took another job that she couldn’t talk about, working in Los Angeles for “the Customer”. While she loved living in Southern California, after 2 years with her parents aging and missing her family, she took a job back in Minnesota working for Cray Research where she met the love of her life, David Miller. The “Mildews” bought a house in the Washburn school district and married July 1, 1989. She and David then spent the rest of their life together working, traveling, eating, visiting friends and family and going to as many live events as possible, including the Guthrie Theatre (where she also volunteered as an usher for many years), the Bakken Trio (now Bakken Ensemble), Ann Reed concerts, Sarah Miller concerts, Jungle Theater, Theatre Latte Da, Children’s Theater (with nieces and nephews), Frank Theatre, Minnesota Opera, Minnesota Orchestra, SPCO, Schubert Club and others, and, of course, their beloved Minnesota Lynx.

Mary’s career kept evolving, leaving Cray after 5 years and working for many companies with larger and more complex database systems, including Fingerhut and Digital River. Eventually being on call and getting called at 1am four nights in a row became too much and she retired, but only from “working full time”.

After a little time off and it became time to try something completely different. Despite not having any formal art or art history training, she decided to become a tour guide at the Walker Art Center. The Walker’s wonderful 2 year training effectively provided the equivalent of a masters in contemporary art history and Mary loved it. She was initially leery of guiding tours for kids but found they were a wonderful audience. She especially enjoyed the 4th and 5th graders, who were old enough to understand and express concepts but where adolescence had not yet made them shy again.

After several years of leading tours at the Walker, she branched out to take the training and become a guide at the Weismann Art Museum at the University.

Mary further decided to start taking piano lessons as an adult, because she enjoyed music. She began at MacPhail with a colleague of Sarah’s, Judy Lin. This introduced her into another group of people as Judy was part of the Bakken Trio, a local chamber music group. After a few years and with a little arm twisting, Mary ended up joining the board and was its treasurer for several years. She never performed as a pianist, even for family, but she was, as always, learning!

As busy as she was, she never stopped reading, with a voracious appetite for mysteries, interesting fiction and food writing. She was a wonderful cook and loved reading cookbooks and food magazines for ideas. As she would describe herself, she was a cook, not a baker because she considered most recipes as suggestions, not rules. That’s harder to pull off as a baker where ratios are usually important. After attending some friends’ birthday party where they made paella, she decided that could be a perfect item to share with the neighbors on National Night Out. It, of course, was a huge hit and soon morphed into a block paella party each year, with participation with several neighbors. Donations gathered there were given to a local food shelf.

Mary never let a little thing like lack of training or experience stop her from applying for (and usually getting) her next job or opportunity. “If I don’t know how to do it today, I will tomorrow.” And she was never one to back down in the male-dominated world of computer databases, nor did she suffer fools. “Do what you say or get out of the way.”

After a short bout with a very aggressive cancer, Mary died on September 11, 2023, survived by her husband, David, her brother, Marshall and his family, many nieces, nephews and cousins and a myriad of close friends from all her activities.

Her service with be 11am September 30, 2023 at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis.

Memorial gifts can be directed to any of the above named Arts organizations or to your local food shelf, another cause she believed in.

Memories and condolences of Mary may be shared at

2 thoughts on “Mary Dew

  1. My late husband, Dave Rich, knew Mary before I did. He recommended her for an instructor position in our group at Sperry(later Unisys). And so that is how I first met her. I was instantly taken with her wit, enthusiasm and “down to earth” personality. She influenced my life in many ways, and we shared many interests in common, the most important being reading. One day she plopped a book on my desk, Any Four Women Can Rob the Bank of Italy, and said “you must read this”! So you see, we were meant to be friends! Over the years, she was a very supportive friend in both personal and professional issues. My late husband, Dave, was a musician; so when Mary married David who loved music and sang in a choir, we had even more in common. The four of us enjoyed concerts, plays and just eating out together. When Dave died in 2011, Mary and David stepped up and included me in their Park Square Theater outings! In addition to having database IT work in common, when Mary became a docent at the Walker, we shared our love of modern art together. Every time I traveled somewhere to see a special exhibit, I looked forward to sharing it with Mary. When I told her about my new partner, David Hawley, she said, “It sounds promising because, you said that he made you laugh!” How I miss her so much! A big gap in my life has been created. But, I treasure my memories of our oh so fun times together!

  2. My wife and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to Dave and the rest of Mary’s family. We had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mary on a number of occasions through my work with Dave at Sun Microsystems and Oracle. Mary was highly intelligent, articulate, and had a great sense of humor. All the more, her sense of wanting help those less fortunate in the world and her willingness to share her extensive knowledge in a number of areas to educate and encourage others was an inspiration to us all. May she rest in peace.

    Daryl Madura & Susan Smith

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