Mary Cobb Nelson Tanner, who grew up in Woodstock and was a proud graduate of Woodstock High School (class of 1936) passed away on March 7, in Chestertown, Md. at the age of 94.
Mary was born in Westford in 1918 and grew up first on farms in Westford and Barnet, and then in Woodstock, where her parents, Miles and Lessie Nelson, ran a dairy farm and were active members of the community.
In her world, draft animals were just in the process of being replaced by tractors, cars and trucks. As a child, she saw electricity come to her father’s farm—first in the barn, later in the house.
Mary graduated from the University of Vermont (class of 1940), held an M.A. in history from Mills College (1942), and earned her Ph.D. in American History, from Radcliffe in 1955.
Before she married, Mary taught at the Anatolia School in Greece in 1950-51 and at Chatham Hall, Dana Hall, Agnes Irwin School, Rhode Island College and Mercer County Community College.
Married to Earl Tanner in 1957, she lived in Lawrenceville, N.J. for over 40 years, where she was active in the League of Women Voters, in local historical and conservation organizations, was co-founder of Lawrence Township’s Meals on Wheels, was deacon and elder of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, founded and served as president of the Lawrence Township Conservation Foundation, and was the first woman elected to the Lawrence Township Council (1976-1981).
The legacies of her years as an active leader in Lawrence Township include the preservation of the historic Brearly house (residence of a signer of the United States Constitution) and of hundreds of acres of natural open space areas in Lawrence Township, both along Cold Soil Road and along the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
Mary spent her last years in a retirement home in Chestertown, Md., where, despite a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease, she continued to enjoy reading, writing brief remembrances of her Vermont childhood, church, visiting with her family and, for as long as she could, participating in the local historical society and making trips to nearby historical sites.
Mary is survived by her sister Jean Conklin of Woodstock; one daughter Martha Chase Tanner of Federalsburg, Md; one son Harold Tanner of Denton, Tx; and five grandchildren, Lucas, Chase, and Jacob Miller of Maryland., and William and Sophia Tanner of Texas.
This obituary first appeared in the March 21, 2013 print edition of the Vermont Standard.
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