Mary Lu Waddell, a resident of Manhattan Beach for more than 30 years, passed away peacefully on Jan. 21 from Alzheimer's disease accelerated by COVID-19. She was 81 years old. Mary Lu lived a full and happy life that included the love of family and friends, a successful career and worldwide travel adventures.
Mary Lu was born Feb. 2, 1939 in Trenton, NJ to Minnie Elizabeth and William Rust Hill. She grew up in Seaford, DE. She was a 1961 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in home economics and journalism. She was an active member of Chi Omega Sorority. After college, she worked as a product tester at Good Housekeeping Magazine in New York City.
While attending Penn State she met her husband, David Waddell. They were engaged in New York City in 1961 on New Year's Eve as the Times Square Ball dropped. They were married Aug. 19, 1962 in Seaford, DE.
The couple then moved to Athens, GA for David's assignment with the U.S. Navy. Mary Lu worked at the University of Georgia writing menus for college dining facilities. David's next Naval assignment took them to Newport, RI. Mary Lu worked as a County Extension agent teaching homemaking classes. Their first daughter, Susan, was born in Newport in 1964.
They subsequently moved to Pittsburgh, PA and daughter Amy was born in 1967. While raising two children, Mary Lu worked as a stringer reporter for the local newspaper. She was also an active member of American Association of University Women where she met many lifelong friends.
In 1973, the family moved to Richardson, TX. Mary Lu's career blossomed when she joined Tom Thumb-Page, a supermarket-drugstore chain owned by Cullum Companies, as director of consumer affairs. She was later promoted to director of marketing communications and became the first female executive within the corporation. As part of her job, Mary Lu wrote a newspaper food column called "Ask Mary Lu" highlighting products, services and recipes. She also wrote about fresh produce in a column called "Miss Picky."
In addition, Mary Lu was a founding board member of the North Texas Food Bank to help feed the hungry. In 1983,
President Ronald Reagan toured the warehouse and Mary Lu was in the receiving line as he personally thanked the
Another move brought them to Manhattan Beach in 1985. Mary Lu worked a short time for the City's parks and recreation department. She eventually started her own marketing and communications consulting company for food-related clients and produce growers.
Mary Lu and David loved to travel and visited more than 20 countries worldwide. She especially enjoyed bicycling trips and riverboat cruises in Europe, sailing in the Caribbean and touring Central America. Other favorite pastimes included reading, tennis and golf. She also enjoyed exercise classes and movies offered at the Manhattan Beach Older Adults program.
A social butterfly, she had many friends, especially the Manhattan Beach "Biker Chicks" and "Running Ladies." Mary Lu was the consummate hostess, always welcoming guests with her exceptional cooking skills and love of entertaining. If you knew Mary Lu, she was probably one of your favorite people.
Mary Lu is survived by David, her loving husband of 58 years, daughters Susan Wirth and Amy Albin, sons-in-law Wade Wirth and John Albin, grandchildren Kenzy and Trevor Wirth, brother William Hill and his wife Cheryl, as well as many close relatives.
An avid reader and fan of the public library, donations in Mary Lu's name can be made to the Friends of Manhattan Beach Library at www.friendsofthemanhattanbeachlibrariesinc.org.
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Published by The Beach Reporter on Feb. 18, 2021.