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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.




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15 Condolences

  1. Eve Brown on July 19, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    Mary and I met in the back of a Jazzercise class held in the downtown Lansing YWCA. We discovered an instant connection in the selection of our preferred place —- the back of that exercise class. We could easily slip in late, or slip out early, and more importantly neither of us wanted to be watched as we danced our way to fitness. Oh yes, we also discovered an unusually good cafeteria in the basement of the YWCA, where we enjoyed an occasional chat over a less than healthy snack. We both enjoyed the irony of sweating our way to health upstairs while relishing our treat of the day, downstairs. For the last 40 years Mary and I shared an enriching friendship based on a deep respect we had for each other. I shall miss her calm, her warmth, her quick wit and laughter. To Bill, Mari, Travis and Gaia- I weep with you. Mary will be with me, always.

  2. Heather Thelen on September 19, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Mary was an inspiration to me. She was a beautiful, strong woman and I will miss her so much. I just wish I had the chance to say goodbye to her.

  3. Leigh (Luebke) Cole on March 11, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    What a lovely and special human being, and what an exemplary life you shared.

  4. Loren E Ehlers on March 12, 2021 at 1:48 am

    Loving mother and loving family. This is what living is about. Glad you had a wonderful life.

  5. Bob and Dawn Haugom on March 12, 2021 at 10:24 am

    What a wonderful testament to your Very accomplished wife. Mary sounds like a beautiful person inside and out. So sorry for your loss Bill.

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