Mary Lee Denley 1934 - 2021

Mary Lee Denley passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of July 7, 2021, at her home in McMinnville, Oregon. Mary Lee was born June 30, 1934, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the first of three children born to J. Merrill and Leila (Hummel) Milton. She was raised faithfully in the Plymouth Brethren Assemblies.

Mary Lee attended high school at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis and graduated in 1952. It was here she met her future husband, Terry Oliver Denley. Mary Lee attended Augsburg College for one year before transferring to the University of Minnesota’s Occupational Therapy program, graduating in 1957.

Mary Lee married Terry on August 15, 1958. The two were inseparable and complementary, enjoying a loving bond that lasted nearly 58 years. In the years that followed, they lived in St. Peter, Minnesota, and St. Louis, Missouri, where Terry finished undergraduate and graduate school programs in Social Work, respectively. During this period, sons Matthew Filip and Scott Milton were born. In 1962, the family moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where, one year later, Elizabeth Ann was born.

In 1963, Mary Lee and family moved to idyllic Fergus Falls, Minnesota. While shepherding along three very busy children, Mary Lee worked outside the home at Lake Region Hospital in various positions in occupational therapy and healthcare administration, the latter utilizing her extraordinary organizational talents. Retirement followed in 2000, with Mary Lee and Terry returning to St. Peter to help care for family. They established and renewed valuable friendships here, and also enjoyed the many stimulating activities at Gustavus Adolphus College. In 2015, Mary Lee and Terry moved to McMinnville.

Regardless of location, Mary Lee actively served both church and community. She joyfully participated in all aspects of church life at Augustana Lutheran in Fergus Falls and at First Lutheran in St Peter. She had a beautiful singing voice which she put to good use, harmonizing in duets with her younger sister Marge, or husband Terry. She sang in multiple church and community choirs, including community musicals. She and Terry were instrumental in helping establish a Young Life ministry in Fergus Falls to serve the spiritual needs of local youth. Mary Lee also coached recreational baseball teams (!) and drove scores of young skaters to hundreds of ice hockey practices and games. Her pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting (frozen, of course) and Scandinavian lasagna were family delicacies. To her children, Mary Lee was the emotional heartbeat of the family and simply the best mom ever.

Mary Lee is survived by her brother, Jim (Ruth) Milton; children, Matthew Denley (Jill Fox), Scott (Antje) Denley and Elizabeth Linquist; grandchildren, Marshall, Nicholas and Jaclyn Denley, and Emily (Hunter Badgley), Gabriel (Lydia) and Anna (Cody Vandever) Linquist; great-grandchildren, Cedar Linquist Badgley and soon-to-be born baby girl Linquist; along with cousins, nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Terry O.; sister, Marjorie Pearson; brother-in-law, Gordon Pearson; sister-in-law, Olive Bauer; and son-in-law, Todd Linquist.

The family wishes to extend a heartfelt thanks to the staff of Rock of Ages/Valley View in McMinnville for the love and dedication they showed Mary Lee (and Terry), especially her tireless caregivers, the M.A.I.D.S. A graveside memorial service will be held in St. Peter, Minnesota, at a date to be determined. To leave condolences, visit


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