Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 1, 2013

Mary L.M. ("Shellby") Shell Died March 28, 2013

TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Lila McDonald Shell, 83, mother of Jules Yuan Shellby of Traverse City, was liberated from her body on Thursday, March 28, 2013, at her home, Arbor House, as they held hands.

Born on May 25, 1929, she was preceded in death by her devoted, wildman husband of 52 years, Murphy Shell. Her exceptional intelligence, wit, and caring will also be missed by her children, Amy (Chris) Shell-Gellasch, Murdeen (Jerry) Shell Wilms, and David (Debbie) Shell; her treasured six grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and “children” Sharon Steelman and Henry Hoenk. She was lovingly, capably cared for with priceless humor since 2007 by Sharri Craft, Linda Eager, Jessie Hall, Tanya Montgomery, Kerry Morey, Ashley Poertner, Cindy Robertson, Meda Fender, and many others, to whom the Shell family will be eternally grateful; they were her heart-daughters.

Born in Detroit, Mary graduated from Cooley High School in Detroit, followed by earning her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Wayne State University. Working in Personnel at Square D and Parke-Davis, she met electrical engineer and future husband, Murphy.

She began her married life with his children, who she always considered her own. They had two daughters together, and gave their children beautiful childhoods in Birmingham, and the gift of summers at their cottage on Intermediate Lake. She valued education, and facilitated all of her children earning university degrees.

A committed stay-at-home mother, her part-time career as a sought-after market researcher included the Gallup Poll. She cherished her dogs and gardens, and most of all, her countless friends. She personally knew and collected Gwen Frostic’s work, and was a “Jeopardy!” genius. She was the single funniest, smartest person her kids ever knew.

Celebrate her with family at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Grand Traverse, 6726 Center Rd., on Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, where the family will greet friends at 4:30 p.m.

Visit Life Story Funeral Home’s website,, for photos of her beauty.

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