Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Mary Lou Pelissero

BESSEMER, Mich. - Mary Lou Pelissero, 90, of Bessemer passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 3, 2020, with her sons by her side.

Her walls were covered with hundreds of family photos that celebrated special events. There were greeting cards, well wishes from friends and brightly colored artwork from her great-grandchildren on the walls - each item a reminder of a life well-lived, and a woman much-loved. One by one, the nursing staff and aides at Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hurley, where Mary Lou spent the past eight years, stopped by to say goodbye to their friend and nursing colleague. Her sons had opened the curtains so she might view the sunrise. She held a rosary in her hand as the Catholic Mass played on TV. The clock read 7 a.m., but it was set seven minutes fast by Mary Lou so she wouldn't be late for her most important journey.

She was certainly greeted at the Gates of Heaven by her husband, John. No doubt, he would reach out his hand to her and say, "I've been waiting 30 years for you. Where have you been?" We imagine that Mary Lou, would reply, "Well, I've been busy."

She was born Mary Louise McManman on Aug. 11, 1929, the first child of Judge Leonard J. and Nina McManman in Ironwood. She attended St. Ambrose High School, graduating in 1947. Following in her mother's career footsteps, she graduated from the College of St. Scholastica's three-year nursing program in 1950, becoming a Registered Nurse.

As a child, Mary Lou was known to be the best athlete in the neighborhood. When teams were selected for baseball, basketball or kickball, undoubtedly Mary Lou would be selected first. Years later, when her sons found an old pair of wooden ski-jumping skis in the garage, they were surprised to learn that the skis belonged to their mom, not their dad. She had a grit and competitive spirit that would serve her well throughout her life.

On Sept. 20, 1952, Mary Lou married John Felix Pelissero at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Ironwood. They would make their home in Bessemer. They were blessed with six sons: John, Thomas, Paul, Gerald, Peter and Patrick. They were well-respected members of the community and were active boosters of the Bessemer Speedboys. Mary Lou attended games regularly, and it was not uncommon to see her watching the game on the field or court, while at the same time listening to another game on the radio.

Mary Lou lived a life of purpose. She touched thousands of lives over her 47-year career as a Registered Nurse. She brought care and comfort to patients at St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, Newport Hospital in Jessieville, Divine Infant Hospital in Wakefield and Grand View Hospital in Ironwood. She worked in a variety of hospital wards and the emergency room, but her favorite ward was obstetrics (OB). She once said, "I always loved working in OB because it is such an exciting moment when a newborn comes into this world." Weekly, someone would remind Mary Lou that she helped bring one or more of their children into this world. When she was a patient at Aspirus Ironwood Hospital this past January, staff who were nursing students while Mary Lou was nursing supervisor stopped by to thank her for the education and encouragement each had received from her.

She retired from nursing in 1997. When interviewed for Health Connection in the Daily Globe of Ironwood (May 5, 1997), she was asked why she chose nursing. Mary Lou replied, "I like helping people. I love patient care and helping different patients get better. I've always enjoyed educating patients on how to better care for themselves. Every patient was special to me. And every patient had some aspect about them that I would remember." Even when away from her nursing duties on the floor, she was known by many area diabetics for her glucose screenings before each Range Diabetes Association meeting.

A year after retirement, Mary Lou was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. She didn't let the disease stop her from doing the things she loved: golfing, spending sunny afternoons on the deck at her cottage on Lake Gogebic and visiting her family across the U.S. She loved that she dangled her toes in the water in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. She loved her friends and being part of the community.

In October 2000, she was involved in a devastating car accident that caused her major injuries and kept her in the hospital for more than seven months. Again, she amazed everyone with her grit and determination to not only survive the accident, but to rehabilitate herself and return to her own home. Although she was fighting Parkinson's disease and the injuries from the car accident at the same time, she never complained about her situation. She only wanted to know how her friends and family were feeling and what they were up to.

In August 2019, more than 70 family members attended Mary Lou's joyous 90th birthday celebration. It was one of the highlights of her life.

She was an avid sports fan and loved to watch her favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, play each Sunday. She particularly loved it when the Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers. "I've got bragging rights all week," she would say.

Mary Lou was big sister to her siblings Kathryn (Mickey), Helen, and Daniel McManman. They marveled at Mary Lou's great memory for names, places and details. If you couldn't remember the details, just call Mary Lou. Even at age 90, her memory was as sharp as a tack.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 37 years, John; her parents, Leonard and Nina McManman; her husband's parents, Alma and Peter Pelissero; and her in-laws, Bruno Pelissero, Art and Marianne Stancher, Mario and Mary (Stancher) Fiorelli, Dan Gleason and Jerome Marconeri.

She is survived by her six sons and her six daughters-in-law and their families, including 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren: John and Paula (Shatz) Pelissero and their children Carolyn (Nick) Moretti with Santino and Ilrio, and Steven (Jennifer) Pelissero with Charlotte; Thomas and Joy (Hautanen) Pelissero and their children Thomas (Sara) Pelissero with Tegan and Finley, Angela (Chad) Beedle with Addison, Silas and Carson, Margaret (Kyle) Effinger with Liam, Megan (Brent) Noren, and Monica Maki; Paul and Mary (Flaherty) Pelissero and their children Craig (Jenn) Pelissero with Victoria, Eleanor, James and Abigail, Maureen Pelissero with Ari, Miles and Serena, and Courtney Pelissero; Gerald and Lori (Gentile) Pelissero and their children Taylor Pelissero and Caitlyn Pelissero; Peter and Kim (Chlebowski) Pelissero and their children Lindsay (Matt) Heikkinen with Lucy, and Lacey Pelissero; Patrick and Story (Washburn) Pelissero and their children Alex (Kristina) Pelissero and Sam Pelissero. Mary Lou is also survived by her brother, Daniel (Sandi) McManman; her sisters, Helen Gleason and Kathryn Marconeri; and her in-laws, Dennis and Rose (Pelissero) Aspinwall; as well as many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Mary Lou's life with a Catholic Mass will be held at a later date. A private Christian burial will take place at Hillcrest Cemetery in Bessemer, where she will be laid to rest next to her loving husband, John.

Arrangements by Jerald Rocco, owner and manager of Lakeside Memorial Chapel in Wakefield.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to Gogebic Community College Foundation for the Mary Lou Pelissero Nursing Scholarship. You can mail checks to GCC or donate on-line at


The family sincerely thanks the nurses, aides, physical therapists, social workers, doctors, cafeteria staff and cleaning staff at Villa Maria who have taken such great care of Mary Lou. In her final days, when she was given the news by the doctor that she would soon be leaving this earth, she did not think of herself, but of those folks at Villa Maria who had become her family. As her sons listened, their mother said, "I want to thank all of you for what you have done for me these past eight years. I have had great care here and I really felt at home. You have treated me with respect and compassion. I hope I wasn't too much trouble for you."