PLATTEVILLE - Mary Frances Kelly, age 75, of Platteville, Wis., died on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, at Agrace HospiceCare, Fitchburg. Mary was born on Oct. 11, 1940, daughter of Maynard and Frances Doris (Browning) Kelly at St. Joseph's Hospital, Dodgeville. Mary graduated in 1957 from Dodgeville High School at the end of her junior year. She attended the Wisconsin State College, Platteville, Layton School of Art, and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; she was awarded a B.S. from UW-Platteville in 1964, a M.S. in 1970 and the Ph.D. in 1990 from UW-Madison. For more than 20 years she taught art and design in Jefferson, Monona and the UW-Madison.
She traveled widely, making eight trips to the Isle of Man in the U.K. to learn more about the birthplace of her paternal grandfather. On Tynwald Day, July 5, 1981, she became one of the founding members of the Wisconsin Manx Society. From 1996 to 1998 she was the president of the North American Manx Association, and beginning in 2004 she became a member of the UW-Platteville Museum Committee. In that capacity she helped to create the only permanent Manx Museum in North America that opened Aug. 11, 2012.
In the summer of 1975 she petitioned the court and won her precedent setting case to become the first woman in Wisconsin to be allowed to reclaim her birth name after a marriage that produced a child. Only one other state had allowed that provision at that time.
She had bilateral mastectomies for breast cancer in 1976 and successfully challenged her insurance carrier to cover the cost of prostheses for women. Previously, they had denied payment stating they were considered entirely "cosmetic". In 1983, she had a second "primary" breast cancer but once again refused any cancer treatment beyond surgery. In 2013 a third "primary" cancer started on her esophagus. She accepted both chemo and radiation in hope of a "third" cure for that lung cancer.
She had been a historic preservationist for more than 30 years. Early in 2000, she successfully bid for the historic home of Major John Hawkins Rountree in Platteville and has continued to preserve and improve that property with the help of many craftsmen. In 2011, she became both a Wisconsin Century Farm and a Century Home Honoree for Dodgeville properties.
In 2009, with Francis "Frank" B. Evans, her husband, and support of Dodgeville neighbors, she bought a small tract of land to create Oakham Lawn Park for a permanent neighborhood playground.
In February 2013, Mary began making presentations about the Isle of Man to local historic groups. Both the Dodgeville Chronicle and the Democrat, Mineral Point, papers covered it.
In August of 2015, through a generous gift of land donated by Mary, to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, a permanent chair or professorship was established at the University of Wisconsin Department of Neurological Surgery for research in metastatic cancer to the brain.
Her interests included photography, Manx cats and gardening. She will be mourned by her husband of 37 years, Francis B. Evans; daughter, Pamela K. W. (Jonathan) Davis; grandchildren, Evan J. K. and Joel T. K. Halpop; son-in-law, Robert Halpop; and many cousins from the Browning family.
The family sends its thanks to the many lifelong friends, who also provided loving support through her final days. A special thank you to Barbara Browning and Connie Skaife who attended to her personal care, morning and night, and made it possible for Mary to live at home up to her last weeks. The family is sincerely thankful for the health care and support from the UW Hospital staff of Madison, the Agrace HospiceCare facility staff of Fitchburg, the Grant County Hospice staff, the Southwest Health Center of Platteville, and the Platteville Police and EMS staff. Our family has been blessed with all of your services during Mary's moments of critical care needs.
Graveside services will be at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, at EASTSIDE CEMETERY, Dodgeville. The Rev. Mike Short will officiate. On Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. there will be a memorial reception and time of fellowship at the MELBY FUNERAL HOME & CREMATORY, Platteville. Online condolences can be made at www.melbyfh.com. The Melby Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the family.