The world lost one of its most beautiful smiles and souls on October 11, 2021. After a valiant battle with brain cancer, Mary Jo Cooper Merrigan passed away peacefully at home in Vermillion, SD, surrounded by loved ones.
Mary was born to Beanie and Ruby Cooper on May 14, 1960, in Algona, IA. The sixth of nine children, she quickly found her place in the family as the calm, caring, peacekeeper among the siblings. She graduated from Vermillion High School where she met her husband, Nick Merrigan. The two were married on April 27, 1979, and welcomed three daughters, Michelle, Jennifer, and Patricia. Their beautiful family of five grew to a rambunctious family of 16 with the addition of three sons-in-law and eight grandchildren.
The family returned to Vermillion in 1995 after 13-years in Colorado where they made lifelong friends. In 1998, Mary found her calling at Sanford Health in Vermillion where she worked for 21 years. Her commitment to her community was unmatched and she dedicated as much time and energy to her volunteer commitments as her career commitments. It was not uncommon to see her running an open house event at Sanford in the afternoon, volunteering at the Vermillion Food Pantry after work, and cheering at a USD Coyote game with Nick in the evening. She did it all with a big smile on her face, giving each event and every person she saw her full attention.
Mary and Nick showed their daughters what true love looked like and proudly celebrated 42 years of marriage together. Mary taught her daughters the art of singing at the top of your lungs in the car and having dance parties in the kitchen. She encouraged them to chase their dreams and explore the world and she was always the first to welcome them home. She showed them what real and unconditional love looks like and the greatest gift of all, how to be a good mom.
To truly see Mary shine, you need only see her in her role as Grandma. She played on the floor, walked fussy babies around restaurants and always gave them too much chocolate. She showed them love to last a lifetime and though she was the best mom, she adored being Grandma the most.
Anyone who met Mary knows that she truly made the world a better place. She dedicated herself to her family, her friends, and her community and all were the better for it. There was no shortage of visits to Mary in the last two years and her friends surrounded her with laughter and stories of a lifetime of memories.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents, brothers Gary and Thomas, sister Kathy, her parents-in-law, and three brothers-in-law. She is survived by her husband Nick, daughters Michelle (Kyle) Hinseth, Jennifer (Ryan) Lemaster, and Patricia (Dennis) Felecos all of Vermillion, SD. She also leaves behind her beloved grandchildren Reese, Shélan, Ashlan, Duke, Theodore, Emarie, Grayson, and Ava. As well as a large and loving family of siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews.
Funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, October 16 at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Vermillion. Visitation will be Friday, October 15, starting at 5:30 p.m. with a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. in the Auditorium at St. Agnes School.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dakota Hospital Foundation or St. Agnes Catholic School.