Mary Godfrey (Noguess)
Mary Vaughan Godfrey, an educator, actress, and child of Texas who lived her entire adult life in Kalamazoo County, died Sunday, April 1 at her home on Gull Lake. She was 77 years old. The cause was cancer, and the acute phase of her illness was as brief as it was devastating.
Mary was born on November 7, 1940 in San Angelo Texas. Her mother, Dimple Noguess, was a schoolteacher. Her father, J. D. Noguess, was a cattleman, and she was raised on the family ranch and also in the town of Menard, which was nearby. A precocious student, she graduated from high school early to attend Rice University in Houston. There she studied English and drama and continued her high school avocation as a drum majorette, marching at the head of the Rice band in the 1958 Cotton Bowl. At Rice, she met Brooks Godfrey, an upperclassman from Kalamazoo studying architecture. Soon inseparable, the couple married in 1959 in Houston. After their first son, DeWitt, was born in Houston in 1960, the family relocated to Kalamazoo. A second son, Jay, was born there in 1963.
Mary continued her studies at Western Michigan University, earning a BA and teaching certificate in 1962. That year, she began her first job as a teacher in the Kalamazoo public school system, from which she would retire in 1997. She taught public school off and on for more than 20 years, most notably as as the drama teacher at Loy Norrix High School, where she mentored hundreds of students and directed and produced dozens of plays. Theater had been a passion from an early age, and Mary also enjoyed a long career in local and regional amateur theater. She was an early member of the company at the New Vic in Kalamazoo, where she also directed dinner theater. She acted in and/or directed plays at the Kalamazoo Civic, Marshall Civic, Carver Center, Three Rivers Civic, Comstock Civic, and the Red Barn in Saugatuck. She was also an adjunct assistant professor in the theater program at Western Michigan University. From 1979 to 1982, she was Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Area Council for the Humanities.
After retirement, Mary put her time, infectious energy, and people skills into politics. During the 2008 presidential race she was a local leader, knocking on doors, working the phones, and helping organize and manage volunteers across Southwest Michigan for the Obama campaign. In recognition of her hard work, she was invited to a special White House reception as a representative of her fellow volunteers.
Beside this life of exceptional accomplishment, Mary took the time to engage deeply with people in her life. She cherished her friends, her far-flung family, and her Gull Lake community. She nurtured her students, celebrated her colleagues, and inspired her sons find their own paths in arts and education. Mary laughed, loved, and worked hard, and had fun with the best of them. She leaves a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.
Brooks Godfrey died in 2013. Mary is survived by her sons DeWitt and Jay, grandchildren Gemma Godfrey, Malcolm Sherman-Godfrey, Georgina Godfrey, and Lilly Sherman-Godfrey, and nephews Levi Noguess, Jamie Noguess, and Tanner Noguess.
There will be a memorial service at a later date. In lieu gifts or flowers, contributions in Mary’s name can made to the Kalamazoo Arts Council for the Adam F. Carter Young Artist Award.
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