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Mary Ellen (Brinks) Fullmer died June 22, 2020 at her home in DeWitt, Michigan with her husband Bill; son, Travis; and daughter, Mari present. With the help of Elara Hospice she was at peace the last few days of her life. Mary had developed pneumonia a few days earlier and was not able to recover this time around. She said it was time for Hospice to join in her journey.

Mary was born in Grand Rapids Michigan, grew up there, and graduated from GR Christian High School in 1964. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelors degree and Masters degree in Education of the Special Child. While there she met Bill Fullmer who became her husband after a six week acquaintance. They moved to Minneapolis where Bill began pursuing graduate studies and Mary worked for the Midwest Regional Education Lab, consulting with Indian schools in South Dakota and Minneapolis inner city schools. Travis and Mari were both born in Minneapolis, Minn.

The family moved to Paw Paw, Michigan in 1974 with Mari a few weeks old. Mary focused on raising children and running the household which she did with considerable skill and passion. The family moved to DeWitt Michigan in 1976 when Bill was transferred to the Lansing headquarters of the State Dept. of Mental Health. As the kids got into middle school Mary sought to get back into the workforce. Classes at Lansing Community College Women’s Resource Center(WRC) helped her in that regard. She then got hired to teach in that WRC program. A couple years later she was Program Director for the Child Abuse Prevention Organization in Lansing where she guided staff running a range of programs and sought grants. When the opportunity came to join the faculty in the Child Development program at Lansing Community College she found her true purpose in her work life. She taught students, coached students at their early childhood work sites, and helped plan and run conferences. She stressed the importance of children’s social and emotional development and to run programs in a way to maximize the children’s best interest. She was known for her ability to give feedback in a way that was supportive and empowering. Mary was highly valued by her Child Development colleagues, some of whom were able to be regular supports throughout her Parkinson’s journey.

Bill and Mary did many fun travels using their Wyndham time-share opportunities; Alexandria, Washington D.C., San Francisco, NYC, Chicago were favorites They also enjoyed visiting Bill’s sisters and families in Wisconsin and many trips to Santa Barbara, CA. The latter because daughter Mari lived there with her daughter Gaia. Mary loved being a grandmother and was an integral part of Gaia’s life, both in California and when Gaia would spend summer weeks in DeWitt with her Maimy, Papa, and Uncle Travis. Mary was always very generous with her love and time. She was a Spartan fan and a Women’s Basketball season ticket fan for many years.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 6 years ago and Dystonia 4 years ago. As often happens it was clear to family that the Parkinson’s had begun a few years earlier. Her disease progressed much faster than most and she had very limited mobility the last couple years. She was a real trooper throughout the disease process, seldom feeling sorry or complaining. She and Bill found or created reasons to laugh every day and to enjoy successes. Her wonderful smile and sparkly eyes were still evident upon coming home for the last time. A truly remarkable woman.

The family is thankful for Elara Caring and Hospice services, MSU Clinical Neurology Department, Lansing Area Parkinson’s Support Group, In home care help of Wind Beneath Your Wings, Christiansen’s Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care and Sparrow Clinton Hospital in St. Johns, MI. And of course the many friends, relatives and neighbors who loved her so much. Blessings to all of you.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Mary’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:

Cremation arrangements are entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids (616) 452-3006, honored providers of Veterans Funeral Care.




Let the family know you care by sharing this tribute.


  1. Nancy and Dick Mueller on July 1, 2020 at 11:14 am

    A lovingly written obituary.
    Mary was a remarkable person and should be celebrated.
    We loved and appreciated her and she’ll be missed.

  2. Robert Fullmer on July 1, 2020 at 11:55 am

    My sincere condolences to cousin Bill and family. What a special obituary. What a very special woman.

  3. Janet Pletcher on July 2, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    I worked with Mary as we both took leadership positions in the Central Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children. She was a capable leader and organizer and a dedicated professional. She was a mentor to me and many others in our profession. My sincere condolences to Bill, Mari, Travis and Gaia.

  4. Dr. Olga N. Hernandez Patino From Puerto Rico on July 2, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Beautiful testimony of Mary’s life. I had the honor to work with Mary in Lansing Community College and as a professor , colleague and friend she was unique and very special for always caring and showing through her actions her love to everybody. I am sad but I know she is in the loving arms of the Lord. My deepest condolences to her family and I pray that she Rest In Peace and that the Lord will give peace and strength to her family and friends. I thank God because he allowed me to know Mary And share beautiful experiences for some of her best years and I loved her peaceful voice.

  5. Sue Bailey on July 2, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    A beloved high school swim parent. My daughter Jessie and Mary’s daughter, Mari, have remained a steadfast friendship since meeting in high school on the Dewitt Swim Team. Many fond memories getting to know Bill and Mary through the exciting DeWitt High School Girls Swim Season. God Bless and God Speed Mary🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼❤️✌️

  6. Bob Taylor on July 7, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Sorry to read of your loss. Although we did not maintain contact after leaving WMU, I remember with great fondness our working together at the Behavior Research Lab and I recall your beautiful wedding ceremony at Ulrich’s. They were wonderful times. Thanks for the memories, Bob

  7. Diane Kraft on July 8, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you for sharing the story of Mary’s life so beautifully. She was an amazing lady and I will always remember her beautiful smile and sparkle in her eyes. Please know that all your friends at Michigan Parkinson Foundation send our deepest sympathy. Mary will always be in our hearts!

  8. SUSAN DOUGHERTY on July 8, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you, Bill for a well worded tribute.
    My condolences to you and your family.
    Mary always had positive things to share in group.

  9. Mark and Toni Talbot on July 8, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    A life well lived and that’s all we can hope for.
    She will continue to live in your hearts and minds. Bill we are so sorry.

  10. Joyce Brown on July 10, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Bill, thank you for sharing Mary’s life in her obituary. I have only known her as part of the Brown family. She had the sweetest spirit and a very special sense of humor. I will miss our conversations come the next holiday get togethers. I wish you, Mari, Travis and Gaia peace in this time of loss. I know Mary’s in Heaven with another loved one, Jerry. Bet they’re having a great time in their new healthy bodies and continual joy.

    Love, Joyce Brown

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