Mary Rydberg Fulmer

18 avril 192622 septembre 2021

Mary Fulmer began her career in 1948 when she became the first woman engineer to be commissioned in the United States Public Health Service. She worked first as a sanitary engineer and later as an industrial hygienist until 2009, during which time she made the lives of workers safer and better through her inspections of workplaces. Her jobs with the Departments of the Army and Navy, OSHA, and the North Carolina Department of Labor took her to New York, Columbus, Heidelberg, Honolulu, Detroit, and Raleigh.

The daughter of immigrants from Finland and Sweden, Mary Fulmer traveled the world with her husband and daughters. Her adventuresome spirit took them to Africa, Japan, and to what was then the USSR.

She was deeply committed to her profession, and worked on learning Spanish late in her career so she could tell undocumented workers that she was there to protect them rather than report them. She was once rushed to the hospital with burns incurred while inspecting a shipyard and in a separate incident was hit in the abdomen by flying molten metal at a foundry. Both workplaces were subsequently cited for unsafe working conditions.

Her granddaughter writes,

Trained as an engineer and became the first woman to serve in the Public Health Corps, a civilian branch of the military. At work once for OSHA, encountered a disturbed man coming in through the door, exclaiming, "I am the knife king of Detroit!!!" and flashing rows of knives in his coat to prove it. Read him reams of obscure OSHA regulations until he gave up and went away out of boredom. Despite her lifelong struggle with foreign languages, became the official North Carolina state translator for safety regulations needing to be translated into Spanish. In her 70s, trained on chainsaws up in tall trees for work; cried tears of bitter resentment when her team only came in second in the competition. In the 1960s, took her children around the world, taking the trans-Siberian railroad across the USSR. Led the Soviets in singing the US national anthem on the 4th of July, "because it would be fun." And it was. Refused to leave a trip to Uganda despite rumors of trouble, "because they wouldn't have sold us tickets to a boat ride if it were going to be dangerous." Evacuated with her young children on the last flight out when the coup started. Born under President Coolidge, she made her last outing from the care facility where she spent her later years to cast her ballot for President Biden. Shuffled off this mortal coil at nearly the moment of the fall equinox, as the light started shifting away from us. If she were still with us today and you confided your difficulties in her, she doubtless would have told you what she always told me: "Why worry about your problems when pretty soon you'll have new problems?”

Her husband, Robert Fulmer, died in 2009.

Mary is survived by her two daughters, Mimmi and Jennifer; her grandchildren, Amanda Fulmer and Randall Merritt; great-grandsons, Jackson Caldwell and Gabriel Fulmer; sons-in-law, Frederic Merritt and Mitchell Rosen; and granddaughter’s husband, Douglas Caldwell.

Mary’s family is deeply grateful for the loving and professional care she received at Sunrise Senior Living of Cary.

A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh on Saturday, October 9th, at 11 A.M. The family welcomes all who are fully vaccinated and wear a mask while inside.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory can be made to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh at 3313 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, NC, 27607 or at www.uufr.org.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 300 St. Mary’s Street, Raleigh, NC. Memories and expressions of sympathy for her family may be shared at www.brownwynneraleigh.com.


  • Memorial Service

    samedi, 9 octobre , 2021


Mary Rydberg Fulmer


Bradley Solov

8 octobre , 2021

Thank you for the wonderful daughter you brought to this world. I'll be eternally grateful for the love and companionship she continues to share with my uncle.

Amy Greenberg

7 octobre , 2021

So many fond memories of Mary, as I spent so much time growing up in the Fulmer home on Eastmoor Blvd. in Columbus, OH. She made everything so fun! She carted us around to the various pools you belonged to, invited me to celebrate Xmas, Easter & New Years w/you, and to great meals at the Scandinavian Club. All those sleep overs! All those gifts from your exotic travels! I was just telling a little girl last week about the elaborate hamster palaces we used to assemble in your sun room and on the stair landing (w/“Man of LaMancha playing in the background). I even have dreams “set” in your old house (usually in Mimmi’s room!). A fantasy home for your lucky friends, w/warmth created by your special mom. Such great memories, all facilitated by you girls, Mary & Bob. May her memory be for a blessing. 😘😘 xxx, Amy Schildhouse

Lee White

29 septembre , 2021

I worked with Mary at the Office of State Human Resources and at the Department of Labor. When she retired at age 83 I told her that I had always thought she would be when I retired, I was 51 at the time. She was an inspiration to being active and keep on moving.