Mary Gail Bissell
August 2, 1928 – May 5, 2020
On May 5th 2020 Mary Gail Bissell went to Heaven to join her husband Bob and her eight siblings. She was the baby girl in a large family from Houston, PA. Her father was John Thomas Bartram and her mother was Elizabeth Jane Phillips. She lived 91 fantastic years. Bob and Mary had four children. Listed in order of their favorites are Tom, Ann, Bob and Jim. Also considered as a son is Jeff Carlisle (Mary’s closest sister’s son). Mary is also survived by some incredible grandchildren (James, Brad, Aline, Stacey, Tyler, Brooke, DJ, Erin and Abby) and six great grandkids (Gabriel, Chase, Roan, Silas, Sloane and Everett).
Mary and Bob met shortly after Bob returned from WWII, where he navigated aircraft in the Pacific theater. Mary was in nursing school at the U. of Pittsburg and Bob was enrolled at W&J College. They married secretly and started a family that moved every two to three years. It was hard for the law to keep up with their moves: Tucson AZ, Harlingen TX, Multrie GA, St. Johns Newfoundland, Seattle WA, Omaha NB, Itazuke Japan, Warner Robins GA, Heidelberg Germany and Clinton, MD. They retired to Maitland, FL in 1972 and moved to Village on the Green in 2006.
Mary’s nursing profession had a profound impact on her family’s careers. Jim was a hospital CEO in Geneva, Switzerland for 37 years, Bob headed up Humana Healthcare in Central FL in the 90’s, Brad is a doctor trained in emergency medicine, Erin is a recent grad and OB/GYN doctor and DJ is a paramedic/firefighter in St. Cloud, FL. James is also a doctor (but not a real one according to his son). Mary and Bob had what amounted to two parenting lives…one with three boys who played sports and ate anything left around; and one with their baby daughter who was 13 years younger than Jim, the youngest boy. There was a brief transition period in Heidelberg when everyone lived together (except for the day Ann decided to sneak out and walk to the golf course. Tom was studying and Bob and Jim were clueless). Mary was a great cook and loved to attend all her kid’s events and many of her grandkid’s events. Ann learned to except her mother’s gray hair at her school events, even when she was the only mom with that color!
Mary also enjoyed tennis and golf with her husband. She was always the older tennis partner in her Maitland group but rarely the weaker. Golf with Bob was a passion, particularly when they decided to buy a second house in Tellico Village, TN. That home was their summer getaway from the FL heat. They ended up selling the house; and all of its furniture to a flim-flam man. They escaped with a second “good” check minutes before the buyer was locked up in the county jail (thanks to Ann’s detective work and younger Bob’s threat to beat him up!). Golf with her husband continued back in FL, until Mary hit Bob with the golf cart she was driving. Mary asked Bob how he was feeling while on the ground under the golf cart. Bob replied, “Feelin’ a little run down!” Despite her nursing care, humor was always the best medicine at the Bissell casa. Bob lived to play the back nine.
Bob and Mary were world travelers. Sometimes the Air Force told them where to go and sometimes their kids told them where to go! South Africa, Egypt, Europe, New Zealand, India, Okinawa, Thailand, Japan and more. They always hopped on free military flights and stayed in the very finest BOQs!
It was Mary who finally decided to move from Maitland to VOTG. Bob was reluctant to leave their home but knew that a happy wife is a happy life. Turns out that the decision was spot on for both of them. They enjoyed their years in their apartment. Mary was ecstatic when she learned that it was against the rules to grocery shop and cook at VOTG. They learned this “rule” from one of their neighbors as they were carting grocery bags to their apartment. Both Bob and Mary volunteered their services to help residents of the VOTG nursing home. And what goes around comes around. Bob was well cared for in the nursing home before his passing in 2009 and Mary was really well cared for during her extended stay at the nursing home. Virtually every time her children visited, one of the staff members would tell them, “Your mom is one of our favorite residents!” Just in the past week, one of the male nurses said, “Your mom doesn’t like to take medication…but she will take it from me!” God bless all the good people who cared for Mary and Bob.
Mary Gail Bissell was the baby girl, a nurse, a military wife, mother of four, grandmother, great grandmother and matriarch of the Bissell family. 1928-2020. The dash (her time on this earth) was thoroughly enjoyed as she loved herself, her extended family and many, many friends. Rest in Peace Mom.
The Bissell family plans to celebrate Mary’s life with a small ceremony and reception in early June, when Jim makes it home from Geneva. Details and updates will be published here. In the meantime, condolences may be offered at www.baldwinfairchildeastaltamonte.com. Anyone wishing to make a donation on behalf of Mary is welcome to donate to her church (Asbury Methodist Church in Maitland, FL 32751)