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Local military champion dies

Mary Findlay made a big difference for JBLM troops

Mary Findlay, founder of Suits for Service Members, was a fixture at events like the Turkey Drop. Photo provided by Stephen Myers

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The thread of service ran strong in Mary Findlay.

A military spouse and supporter of the servicemembers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and fixture in the town of Steilacoom, passed last weekend.

"Hers was a life of service," said Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas. "She was often referred to as ‘Miss Mary,' and she had a very strong interest in soldiers, their families and especially their children."

Findlay was a member of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of Norway, the Steilacoom Historic Museum Association, the Steilacoom Kiwanis, and the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church - Steilacoom.

"Mary was a volunteer for AUSA and our community," retired colonel and chapter president Stephen Myers said. "Her friendly smile and warm heart were always out and about."

Her heart led her to found Suits for Soldiers, a 501(c)3 charitable activity program in conjunction with the Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the AUSA.

"Seeing the soldier's need to find a job when discharged, she wrote a proposal for an AUSA Suits for Soldiers program," noted retired Army Maj. Gen. John Hemphill.

In 2016, the program was renamed to Suits for Service Members.

Run by volunteers, the program encourages the donation of clean, smoke-free, gently used men and women's business attire.

In turn, transitioning servicemembers -- to include Navy, Reserve and National Guard members -- receive two free suits as they prepare for job interviews in the civilian world.

"What people don't know is that she would travel long distances to meet transitioning servicemembers so they could receive their complimentary suits," Carlene Joseph recalled.

More than 10,000 servicemembers have been helped.

One soldier -- Shay Altshue -- wrote this letter to Findlay.

Thank you so much for the suit! I'm planning to work as a DoD contractor as an Intel Analyst and will definitely require this suit as part of the interview. You have saved me a significant sum of money and helped me promote myself. Please continue to help other soldiers, and thank you for being such a wonderful person.

"She was a wonderful and warm woman who threw herself into service," said Air Force veteran and 28th District Rep. Dick Muri. "She will be greatly missed."

A memorial service for Mary Findlay will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at the North Fort Lewis Chapel.

Cards can be sent to Mary's daughter, Sarah, at the following address:

Sarah and Eric Zenz
7440 86th Avenue SE
Mercer Island, WA  98040

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