A Tribute To Mary Lou Figanmese 

Isik, husband, and Mary Lou ringing in the New Year, Bodrum, Turkey, New Year's Eve 2012
Isik, husband, and Mary Lou ringing in the New Year, Bodrum, Turkey, New Year’s Eve 2012

Mary Lou Figanmese was an American woman of Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage. She had been married to her Turkish husband, Isik, since 1981, whom she met in Pennsylvania. Known to her friends and family for her loving and hard-working personality, Mary Lou’s favorite pastime was always helping and doing things for others. She had a B.S. in Education and was a retired Special Education teacher. Mary Lou and Isik raised three daughters and fought progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) for seven years. 

Ayse (daughter), MaryLou, Melis (daughter) at Mary Lou's brother's home. About to embark on a Euro Trip with her daughters in Blaustein, Germany, Summer 1998
From left: Ayse, daughter, MaryLou, Melis, daughter, at Mary Lou’s brother’s home. Blaustein, Germany, Summer 1998

 

Like many others with PSP, Mary Lou was initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but she knew it was something else. She searched online daily for similar symptoms and stories, she took herself to countless doctors’ appointments to better understand her condition and to receive an accurate diagnosis. The early symptoms were loss of balance and shakiness in her hands. The ability to chew and maneuver food in her mouth was also a symptom within the first few years. After falling and breaking both hips her ability to walk declined rapidly, though despite this she continued to walk until just days before she passed. The last two years before her passing, Mary Lou still walked to and from the bathroom with a walker. Never complaining, always pushing herself. 

From left: Zain, son-in-law, Mary Lou, Melis, daughter, at Melis' wedding in Bodrum, Turkey, August 2013
From left: Zain, son-in-law, Mary Lou, Melis, daughter, at Melis’ wedding in Bodrum, Turkey, August 2013

 

A life-long adventurer, she lived for 10 years in Turkey on the south-eastern coast in a beach town called Bodrum. A swimmer, dancer, and truly filled with life, she was described by people as “among the most amazing people on this earth.” But there was nothing in her life that mattered more to Mary Lou than family. She fought her disease every day so she could spend one more moment with her grandchildren, daughters and husband. 

 

• Sonat (son-in-law), Mary Lou, Isik (husband), Melis (daughter), Becky (daughter), Zeynep (granddaughter), Zain (son-in-law), Safiye (granddaughter) celebrating Christmas in Jersey City, 2014
From left: Sonat, son-in-law, Mary Lou, Isik, Melis, daughter, Becky, daughter, Zeynep, granddaughter, Zain, son-in-law, Safiye, granddaughter, celebrating Christmas in Jersey City, 2014

At her funeral, one by one people shared their individual stories with us about how Mary Lou made an impact on their lives. Mary Lou stepped in as caregiver for a woman with Cerebral Palsy; she adopted an entire family whose father was deployed in Iraq by babysitting and preparing meals; she built a skate park for local skateboarders when none of her children even skated. When she saw a need, she stepped in. 

 

Her joy for life, wanderlust and enormous heart will be forever missed.

 

From left: Becky, daughter, Ayse, daughter, Zain, son-in-law, and Mary Lou at her nephew's wedding in Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2010
From left: Becky, daughter, Ayse, daughter, Zain, son-in-law, and Mary Lou at her nephew’s wedding in Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2010

Her family are kindly asking for donations to find a cure for this terrible disease, in loving memory of Mary Lou. Please make your gift in the form below.

 

Zain (son-in-law) and Mary Lou at Zain’s university graduation, London, England, Fall 2009

As a young woman, Mary Lou also wrote a cookbook of Turkish recipes that she learned by shadowing her mother-in-law during her time in Turkey, and, for Mother’s Day 2017, her daughters published that cookbook. She was able to see the hardcopy of her cookbook just a day before passing.

 

Mary Lou’s cookbook, Turkish Specialties, is now on sale, and 100% of proceeds will be donated to CurePSP. Please consider purchasing this book as a gift to yourself or a loved one, in memory of our amazing mother. (Click on the link to view the book.)

 

Make a gift in memory of Mary Lou