Mary Kay Stiles McDowell

Published 3:06 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Mary Kay Stiles McDowell, 86, died peacefully Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at The Magnolia at Oxford Commons in Oxford, Mississippi. Services will be held Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in the Chapel of Waller Funeral Home in Oxford with Rev. Deb de Boer officiating. Visitation will be held prior to the service at the same location beginning at 12:30 P.M.

Born in Sycamore, Illinois, on December 2, 1936, Mary Kay was the daughter of Rose Ida Dutton and Aaron Kay Stiles. She held an Associate degree from Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, and the Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Missouri. She married her husband, Leslie Lee McDowell, in 1956, and they moved to Oxford in 1960 upon completion of his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri.

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Mrs. McDowell was a long-time piano teacher, providing private lessons in her home in Oxford from 1961 to 2006. During those 45 years, she taught almost 300 students, including both children and adults. Many Oxford residents will also remember the recitals she gave with her duet partner, the late Lucile McGaha.

From 1962, Mrs. McDowell was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Oxford, where she was an active member of the Lula Gregory and Alma Shaw Circles. She served as an ordained elder and taught Sunday School from 1966 to 1971. Mrs. McDowell was on the committee to plan, raise funds for, and build the Fellowship Hall in 1986. In 2014, she was presented with Honorary Life Membership in Presbyterian Women.

Mrs. McDowell and her husband were avid genealogists, making many trips seeking information on their ancestries. She was a member of the Stiles Family of America, the National Genealogical Society and several regional genealogical organizations. Mrs. McDowell wrote and published seven volumes of family genealogy over a span of several years. She took great pride in her broad collection of family photos.

Mrs. McDowell led the effort to raise funds for a grand piano for the then-new Oxford-Lafayette County Public Library in 1978. She was an active member and twice president of the Oxford Music Club, and twice president of the Reader’s Guild. She was an avid stamp collector and often had multiple knitting, cross-stitching and sewing projects in progress. In recent years, she enjoyed playing the piano for other residents at The Magnolia at Oxford Commons and spending time with her beloved cat, Sweetie.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. McDowell was preceded in death by her two brothers, William Dutton Stiles of West Palm Beach, Florida, and Peter Wellings Stiles of Lake Wales, Florida. Survivors include her son, Peter Thomas McDowell of Nashville, Tennessee; her daughter, Linda McDowell Davis of Doylestown, Pennsylvania; and two grandchildren, Ryan McDowell Davis and Sarah “Salem” Wellings Davis.

Interment will be in the Oxford Memorial Cemetery alongside her husband, where rests a Celtic cross monument, designed by Mrs. McDowell.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Mrs. McDowell’s memory may be made to the First Presbyterian Church of Oxford, 924 Van Buren Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655 or the charity of the donor’s choice.