Valley News – A Life: Mary E. Tyler; ‘She was diligent and loving and such a caring person’

ENFIELD – Mary Tyler has always had a green thumb – according to her nephew and godson Raymond Estes III it runs in the family – but anyone who saw her flower gardens knew they really were something special.

“She used to get so excited when spring came because she could start digging up her lawn and putting flowers on it,” said Joan Aldrich, Tyler’s sister, recalling Tyler’s beautiful begonias and African violets and a crab apple tree that she grew planted in her memory had eldest sister, Carol, who died about 20 years ago.

Tyler died on February 21 after a five-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She leaves a legacy of beauty – both in her flower gardens and in her place in her family and the Enfield community.

Doug Maynard, Tyler’s partner of nearly 17 years, said her proudest horticultural achievement was a rock garden with a working waterfall that she dubbed “Tyler Falls.” The project required years of planning, and when it was complete, Tyler even relocated her air conditioner so her view of the waterfall was unobstructed.

“She’s complained every year about how much work it takes to do it, but she hasn’t let up,” Maynard said. “She’s always had her gardens and she’s always expanding them.”

Aldrich said one aspect that contributed to this work was Tyler’s ongoing struggle with the deer that lived near her home and constantly invaded her gardens. The spring before Tyler died, Aldrich said she planted two pansies in her garden and was going to send her sister a photo the next morning, but deer ate all the flowers before she could. Once, when Aldrich was visiting, Tyler even ran into the garden to catch the deer in the act and scare them away, although they returned soon after.

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While Tyler’s home was surrounded by several gardens, Maynard said she’d never planted her favorite flowers — white daisies and yellow roses — so he’d always get them for her on special occasions. Aldrich said that Maynard Tyler once bought a rosebush of which she was very proud, but its flowers were soon eaten by the deer as well.

Aside from Tyler’s Hirsch rivals, “there wasn’t too many people who didn’t like her,” Maynard said. Aldrich said that from a young age, Tyler was active in her school community, joining the cheerleading team and eventually becoming the school’s mascot.

“She was an active person, very caring, devoted to others,” Aldrich said. “That was her personality — very caring, very generous.”

Aldrich and Estes both said that while Tyler never had children, she treated her niece and nephews as if they were her own. Estes said that she has been an important part of his life since he was a child, especially since his mother and Tyler’s sister Susan passed away in 2019.

“She watched over us and took care of us because that’s what she did,” Estes said. “She did everything she could to help my mother and take care of me. She was always there for me.”

Tyler’s caring nature was particularly evident when it came to her husband Ed Tyler, who died in 2005. Tyler and Ed were childhood sweethearts and they married in 1977. Their 28 years together were happy and rewarding, despite a spinal cord injury in 1985 that left Ed paralyzed.

“She was hardworking and loving and such a caring person,” Aldrich said, noting that Ed lived much longer after his injury than most quadriplegics because of Tyler’s devoted care.

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Ed was even able to work in Human Resources at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, where he and Maynard became close friends when Maynard had an extended hospital stay. After Ed’s death, Maynard said he and Tyler would see each other for lunch or dinner every few months. They started dating about a year and a half later.

When Tyler wasn’t in her yard or doing a jigsaw puzzle, she and Maynard “did pretty much everything together,” according to Estes. Maynard said that he and Tyler would snowshoe together every winter, and they would meet up with friends to watch the Patriots game or the Red Sox every weekend when they were doing well. They once traveled to Buffalo, NY to personally see a Patriots game that Maynard said they won.

One thing Maynard said he and Tyler didn’t agree on was their “favorite toy,” a Toyota Solara convertible that she bought a few months after Ed’s death. On hot days, Maynard wanted to turn on the air conditioning, but Tyler loved driving around with the top down.

Aldrich said that Tyler loved the outdoors since childhood and that the sisters grew up ice skating, swimming and camping together in the Enfield area. According to Aldrich, Tyler was “a game for just about everything” — except walking through Aldrich’s Florida backyard because she was afraid she’d run into a snake.

Although she only took up gardening seriously as an adult, Tyler had always been interested in her mother’s plants and was constantly curious about the world around her. Aldrich recalled that when the family visited a local fish farm, their father would warn the sisters not to go too close to the water’s edge; Tyler, the youngest of the four sisters, never listened, and one trip had to be cut short when Tyler accidentally fell into a breeding pond while trying to catch a fish.

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Estes said the four sisters always smile in family photos, a trait each of them carried into adulthood.

“She was one of those people who just smiled, always happy. There was very little that upset her,” Estes said, although he noted Tyler was also “quick to tell how it was. That was one thing with my aunt, if she felt like you were an idiot she would always tell you.”

“She was definitely warm and outgoing, and she loved to laugh,” Maynard added.

Tyler cared deeply for the happiness of others in addition to her own. Much of what she did — from setting up a bird gazebo in her yard to planning girls’ nights out with old friends from high school — she did for the benefit of others as well as herself.

“She was one of those rare people who would do just about anything for anyone,” Estes said.

Estes said Tyler is known in her community as a hard worker, strong woman and loyal friend with a big heart.

“She had so many people to take care of her. She was, I know, really great in the community,” he said. “I can go pretty much anywhere in Enfield and say something about Mary Tyler and people would be like, ‘Oh, I know your Aunt Mary. Oh I love your aunt. She’s such a sweetheart.’ ”

Lauren Adler can be reached at [email protected]

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