Mary Margaret Harlan
July 21, 1949 – October 10, 2020
Mary Margaret Harlan, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, world traveler, successful entrepreneur, teller of tales, master of wit, high priestess of life, and the most exciting person many have ever known, climbed the golden staircase on Saturday, the 10th of October 2020, at the age of 71.
God broke the mold with Mary. She entered life with a stutter and an unshakable will to beat it and anything else that stood in the way.
Mary was born into a life of comfort—Summers at River Oaks Country Club and Wimberly, Texas, Will Rogers Elementary, Lee High School, Pine Manor College, University of Texas, and Boston University. But she left it all behind to conquer the world.
She walked among snipers, presidents, refugees, and CEO’s. She was the daughter of a decorated FBI man but knew Timothy Leary in his heyday and saw Hendrix live in London.
Mary introduced Chinese wok cooking to rural Texas in the early ’70s and moved her son Daniel to Greece and Italy to learn at a young age just how much possibility the world held for him (lessons that shaped his life forever).
Mary was tall, beautiful, and immediately commanded any room she walked into. Regal and rebellious, she had a look on her face that said, “yes, I do know more than you do, and no, I won’t tell you what it is. But don’t worry; it’s going to be ok.”
Vivacious and outgoing, she was a sphinx-like mystery who could learn your life story in a split second and make you feel like she was your age-old friend without revealing a thing about herself.
Mary took children to see foreign movies with no dialogue just to get their wheels turning. She taught the art of French cooking at a community college for fun, lived on a vineyard in Assisi, Italy and showed her then eight-year-old son how to dive for sea urchins off the coast of Zakynthos, Greece.
Widowed young, she juggled single motherhood, a U of H masters program, and building a successful global consulting business like it was nothing.
Decades ago, when people started asking, “how can women have it all?” Mary answered by doing it. She walked the halls of the White House, the tarmac of Air Force 1, and held forth in boardrooms from Perrier to Duke Energy.
At 59 years old, most people start living like they’re on the tail end of the hayride. But Mary was just getting started.
She witnessed the birth of two incredible grandchildren who matched her wit, presence, and power pound for pound. Became an adjunct professor. And she swiped right and met Phil Martin, the love of her life. They traveled the world together from Burma to Budapest, rode elephants, and swam in the Andaman Sea.
Mary believed in her heart that love and respect for all people were the not-so-secret ingredients to a life well lived on planet earth and that what ties us together as a species is stronger than what works to pull us apart.
She leaves us when we need her the most. In a world that has moved apart, Mary would tell us to come together.
Mary was fond of saying, “what got you here won’t get you there.” And that has never been more true than now. Her hand is off the wheel, and she joins us riding in a spiritual shotgun. But her message to all who knew her is the same: unconditional love will win the day.
Mary joins mother Polly, father Bill, and first husband Dan Sr. in that great frequent flyers lounge in the sky. She is survived by her rock and husband, Phil Martin; “One and Only Number 1 Son” Daniel Sterling Sugulas II; Daniel’s wife, Melissa; and the heirs of Mary’s greatness, grandchildren Scarlett and Scout. Mary also leaves behind siblings Florence Jean Harlan & Thomas Adkerson Harlan, Thomas’s wife Cameron, as well as countless nieces and nephews, fans, friends, well-wishers, and those in lifelong awe of all that she was and all that she did.
Friends are cordially invited to greet the family and share remembrances of Mary during a memorial reception and celebration of her life from twelve o’clock noon until three o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 24th of October, in the grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family kindly requests that you please consider contributing to Mary’s favorite charity, The Houston Foodbank, c/o Donor Services, 535 Portwall St., Houston, TX 77029 (www.houstonfoodbank.org).
“Sleep softly, sweet Mary Margaret. You will be forever loved and missed...”
- The Houston Foodbank
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Mary Margaret Harlan
October 20, 2020
Our 20 year friendship began soon after moving to Houston, when I met Mary at a mutual friends 50th birthday party. The twinkle in her eyes and her vibrant smile drew me to her, after a short chat I was intrigued and felt a kindred spirit with her.
Fortunately for me, Mary was contracted to consult with the global team that I was part of and I got to experience her mastery at consulting multiple times. A year later Mary designed and facilitated 2-day retreat at a ranch for the same team – it was a life changing experience for me. I share this today as Mary was gifted in designing and leading experiential retreats. After that our friendship deepened and we have been very close friends since.
Together we worked on global projects, traveled to major US cities to learn more about cross cultural leadership and communications, and to get certified as “life coaches”. The life coaching training and practice ended up reseting the work Mary wanted to do - it was a new focus for her. And she mastered it quickly. After certification, we agreed to be each other’s “coach” for the rest of our lives.
On a coaching certification trip to NYC, we had a homework assignment that we chose to do with each other over dinner in Little Italy (Mary loved NYC and insisted we squeeze as much fun in each day as possible). That night’s coaching session led to Mary “opening up her heart to find love”, a couple of months later she met Phil – the love of her life as she would say.
My husband and I were her first friends to met Phil, she was nervous about that night at our home hoping we’d like him. Within a few minutes we saw how connected they were and over dinner we saw how much they had in common. By the end of that night we felt they were “meant to be together”.
The world lost a very special person and Heaven gained one heck of an Angel. I’m counting on you Mary to keep an eye on me and I look forward to being reunited with you one day.
October 20, 2020
Having known Mary my entire life, I have too many memories to share. I am not sure she would have liked all of the memories. But all of the times shared have added to my life and made me a better man. I will greatly miss Mary and her vibrant smile. My memory of her will always be her laughing and being full of life.
October 19, 2020
I first met Mary in 2012, and soon after she asked me to be part of a team she was putting together to work on a consulting project. As we traveled to field locations around the country—Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and LA—we had some amazing experiences, and in the process, I got to know Mary both as a colleague and then as a friend.
She had a way of really connecting with people and understanding what they needed. She could be compassionate- I saw her spend hours at night on her own time with clients who were working through difficult situations. She also could be tough-I saw her bring order and a sense of purpose to a meeting room full of people who were on the verge of rebellion.
I think what I remember most is her wry and clever sense of humor. On one of our trips to DC, we were talking at dinner about the practice of ‘being in the moment’. Several hours later, when walking back to the hotel, we were discussing that spring was coming and plants were starting to bloom. I asked her what her favorite flowers were; she pointed to the blooms we were passing, looked directly at me and answered: "well right now, those are my favorite flowers."
Finally, I really admire the way that she always kept moving forward no matter what life threw at her.
I miss you a lot; I know you are with the angels.
October 18, 2020
I’m so deeply saddened about the passing of one of my favorite professors. Mary was such a kind and loving soul. She always made me feel special!!! Always supportive and encouraging of my hopes and dreams. I will miss that beautiful smile of hers. Sending all my thoughts and prayers to her family ❤️. Much love always,
October 18, 2020
I met Mary 28 years ago when I was starting my journey as a consultant and mother. She held my newborn after work while we worked out consulting problems. Over the years, we got together to talk and laugh and work out life problems.
My last text to her in Sept. said it all, "I feel so blessed to have you in my life. You have always been an inspiration. Love you much"
Thank you, my coach, mentor, role model and friend. You will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace
Shani Jackson Dowell
October 18, 2020
What a gift the time we spent riding around the country - from Dalton, Georgia to power plants in Ohio and California. I tasted my first Dairy Queen sandwich with you and what a laugh we had about how terrible it was.
I learned so much getting to walk alongside you - and what a gift so early in my life and career to get to come alongside your brilliance, wisdom and life. I like to think a piece of you still walks with me.
Your love for your son and family was always so evident and I’m so glad to know your grandkids keep your spark and spirit going.
I am sorry to not have met your whole family but sending my love, prayers and heart to you all.
Shani and the Dowells
October 18, 2020
What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman! She was indeed vivacious, outgoing and a true rebel with quick wit! I met Mary, Dan and Daniel when they moved to Assisi, Italy where I lived for about 8 years. We became fast friends and spent quite a bit of time together in the 80s. I remember the dinner parties at their home in Rivotorto making pasta together, drinking wine and laughing! Mary’s sense of humor was legendary and it is what I will remember most! For some reason Mary entrusted me to teach Daniel Italian and some other subjects while living in Assisi and that was an interesting adventure! We stayed in contact over the years through Facebook, a couple phone calls and one reunion in Chicago with Mary, Cathy & Nora, the American Assisi girls. What a blessing it was to be Mary’s friend! I had hoped we would have another reunion, but that will have to wait for our time together in heaven. I am so very saddened to learn of Mary’s passing, so I send my most heartfelt sympathy to Daniel, Phil and all the family. You were so special Mary and you’ll be deeply missed! Blessings to all who were fortunate enough to be touched by Mary in this life! ❤️🙏🏻
Glenda Goodwin Cornell
October 17, 2020
Sweet Mary, it is no surprise to me all the accomplishments you achieved. You were always bright, fun, easy with your quick wit and so so smart. Meeting you at Rogers junior High and all through High school you were a step ahead of everyone and full of mischief. Keeping up with you on Facebook over these last years was a true blessing for me and you will be so missed.
October 17, 2020
Thank you, Mary, for your kind compassion and your steady hand. I enjoyed our times together and your patient wisdom. You guided me through both joyous and difficult times with foresight and gentleness. Go sweetly into heaven’s gates and I will see you soon.
October 17, 2020
Mary and I met in 1962 in the foyer of Rogers Jr High We became fast , close friends We lived very close to each other and spent a lot of time together. We both had a car at 14 and we spent a lot of time and miles crusing Tanglewood Blvd I spent endless nights at her house where we would pad her windows, push out the car and go! Downtown Houston in pajamas at 2 am was pretty daring Or a middle of the night drive to Galveston. We had an “ elite “, in our minds , group of friends We called ourselves the “In Crowd “ After high school, we kept in touch but we just had different lives then When she moved back to Houston and living at the Deerwood apartments , it all started again
I was with her when she started dating Phil . She would take me along to be her personal shopper ! Mary wanted to find the best oufits for her new dating life ! He was the highlight and love of her life . Their trips together were amazing They had 3 more coming up I will miss her every day and will always hold her memory close A big part of my heart went with her I love you , Mary Margaret ❤️
October 17, 2020
I met Mary at UT in a foreign film class in 1969.
We became fast friends and shared many wonderful experiences for 40 years.
I miss Mary most for her zany sense of humor and quick wit.
She was an exuberant and expressive communicator and filled every conversation with laughter.
Mary’s adventurous spirit matched her love of travel.
I have fond memories of traveling to visit Mary and Dan and Daniel on the island of Zakynthos and later Assisi, Italy when they were living abroad for several years.
Daniel and Mary were speaking Greek and Italian when I arrived.
Mary had a brilliant mind.
When Mary was in graduate school we were having lunch one afternoon.
She said she needed to go home and study for her statistics final exam because she had not attended any classes that semester or read the text book. Of course she had a perfect score on the exam!
Mary also had an amazing super power. She could work tirelessly without sleep to complete projects.
She loved consulting work because it was meaningful and made a difference in peoples lives.
I was assisting her on one occasion and we worked all day and night without a break or sleep.
At 6 am she showered, took a cab to the airport, flew to Atlanta to give the presentation and flew home. 36 hours sleepless was no big deal to her when she was on a mission.
I was blessed in a million ways by Mary’s friendship; including the gift of friendship with her son and sister and brother.
My deepest sympathies to the family.
October 16, 2020
I have so many wonderful memories of Mary; so, it is difficult to pick just one. She was smart, talented, kind, caring, and fun. She could take the complicated and give it clarity but could see deep meaning in something that appeared to be simple and straightforward. I loved her for all that she was to me and so many others. I will miss hearing her voice and seeing her face; but most of all, I will miss her loving spirit...a gift she gave freely. I know she leaves a legacy of love to her many friends because I am blessed to have been one of them. I will keep her family in my prayers as they mourn the loss of her.
October 15, 2020
Little sis to my 1st real friend at 4, Tommy, many memories exist from 4 to 11 in Highland Village and more in Tanglewood from 12 to 18. Lost track somewhat thereafter except catch-ups via Tommy thru the yrs. Like momma Polly and big sis Jeannie always a classy women with great smile and sense of humor. Rest in Peace MMH.