MaryLu Leger clipped obituaries. A well-lived life, a quirky phrase, a free spirit – she read them, she cut them out, she sent them to friends. She would be pleased if her life was similarly shared. MaryLu – Bom to her grandchildren – was born in Dawson, N.D., in 1935 and grew up in Colorado Springs and Las Cruces, N.M. In high school, she worked as a salad girl at a restaurant, catching the eye of waiter Richard Leger, a New Mexico State University freshman. Their first date was on her 16th birthday. They married four years later, on May 19, 1956.
MaryLu dreamed of the exotic locations Richard's first posting as an Air Force pilot would take them. Roswell, N.M., was not on the list. Their first son was born there. A daughter and second son followed after the family returned to Las Cruces. MaryLu taught her children respect. The phone was answered "Leger residence, Kevin speaking." She gave her children and grandchildren unconditional love even when they tested its limits.
For 13 years, she hosted what was a novel idea in the 1960s: a radio talk show broadcast from a coffee shop. Her guests included Barry Goldwater, Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy, the Lawrence Welk cast, the Harlem Globetrotters and the NMSU basketball team that reached the 1970 Final Four, which MaryLu and Richard attended.
She and her best friend co-owned a La Mesilla gift shop, where she began a life-long love of needlepoint. In-laws knew they were part of the family when they received a handcrafted Christmas stocking to match their personality.
The couple were founding members of the Las Cruces Community Theater. She took lead roles in dramas and comedies, and playwright Mark Medoff chose her to originate a role in one of his plays. Though she couldn't sing a lick, she became the go-to director for musicals from "Brigadoon" to "Music Man" to "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Her children grew up acting, helping backstage and directing. Her grandchildren were treated to Phoenix Theater productions and trips to see New York and London shows.
She loved the Southwest. Her home is decorated with santos, antiques and paintings of New Mexico and Arizona. She loved visiting Santa Fe, and celebrated Christmas there with family in 2010.
In 1986, Richard and Mary Lu moved to Scottsdale. She fulfilled a lifelong dream by earning a college degree, algebra notwithstanding. Building on her experience in Mesilla, she managed a Scottsdale needlepoint shop and continued to teach classes into this month. Her home was the family gathering place, whether to turn red chile into enchilada sauce, for Christmas and Thanksgiving, or for a cutthroat game of Cranium.
MaryLu was generous with her time and talents. She volunteered with Make a Wish. More recently, she was a tutor and pen pal for elementary students. She would be volunteering, spoiling her grandkids and cheering the success of children and grandchildren if the unexpected had not taken her life on Aug. 14, 2011.