Nov. 21, 1927 — Sept. 13, 2013
Mary French passed away on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 at her home in Davis. She was 85.
She was born Manya Loscutoff in a small village near Rostov-on-Don, Russia on Nov. 21, 1927, in a Russian Molokan religious community. As tensions grew for Molokans under the Stalin regime, her parents emigrated to San Francisco where her grandfather had earlier been a founder of the Russian Molokan Church. Manya’s name was Americanized to “Mary” and she spent her childhood in San Francisco surrounded by her Russian extended family, including her younger sister and brother.
After graduating from Commerce High School in San Francisco in 1945, Mary enrolled at UC Berkeley; she was awarded a bachelor’s degree in child development in 1949. In 1946, she met her future husband and lifelong love, Ben French, at a student co-op dance and in December 1947 they married. They had three children: Susan (1950), Ben Jr (1953), and Stan (1957). Theirs was a marriage of enduring love, friendship, and devotion to family. They enjoyed their world travels, camping trips, and most of all, fishing. They had a long, healthy, and happy life together, until Ben passed away on Aug. 23, 2013.
Mary had a gift for making all around her feel welcomed, accepted, and cared for. A Davis resident for 54 years, she served as secretary of the Davis Unitarian Church in the 1960s and was a founding member of the Suicide Prevention Hotline. As a faculty wife — Ben was a professor and department chair in the Department of Agricultural Economics at UC Davis — she welcomed new faculty into her home and helped their families settle into the Davis community.
Later, she pursued her longtime passion of tole painting, the folk art of decorative painting on metal or wooden objects and furniture. Her work was recognized for its immaculate design, fine detail, and beauty.
Most of all, Mary was a devoted mother and spiritual rock for her three children, who will miss her very much. The values and lessons she imparted will live on through her children and grandchildren.
Mary is survived by her sister Jonnie Semrad; brother Stan Kobsef; daughter Susan French Weeks; sons Ben and Stan; son-in-law Ed Weeks; daughter-in-law Wendy Chan French; granddaughters Aubree French and Gillian Weeks; and great-granddaughter Bristol Bullivant.
At Mary’s request, there will not be a memorial service. Remembrances may be posted with Wiscombe Funeral Home at www.wiscombefuneral.com.