Mary Nassif, a lifelong resident of Cedar Rapids, died peacefully on Thursday, March 1, 2018, at her home at age 100. Mary was the eldest of six children and was born in Cedar Rapids on Dec. 31, 1917, the daughter of Samuel and Selma Fadara (George) Slaman. She attended public schools in Cedar Rapids Tyler, McKinley and the "old" Washington High School and was married at a young age to Samuel J. Nassif on Aug. 12, 1936. Upon marriage, she became involved in family real-estate management.
Family life and business responsibilities did not deter Mary from pursuing her lifelong passion for artistic and cultural ventures, particularly her love for the theatre. While she was an active supporter and board member of The Footlighters, the theatre organization born in 1948 that became the precursor of Theatre Cedar Rapids, she was also a dedicated board member of the Children's Theatre of Cedar Rapids. In that capacity, she pioneered the teaching of creative dramatics for children. The children in her classes became the performers in community productions. She served on the board of the Cedar Rapids Radio Council where she co-produced, scripted and served as the audition chairwoman. She wrote, directed and acted in several of the council's plays and was the group's representative to the Children's Theatre. She originated the idea for the radio show called "Girl of the Moment" for WMT, which she presented on behalf of a department store; the weekly show included news, fashion and music. Her lifelong love of dance was expressed in her support of the Dieman-Bennet Dance Theatre where she helped promote ballet as well as international dance forms.
Mary's faith-based activities included her involvement with the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County. She developed programs and presentations for various audiences that reflected her knowledge of the Orthodox faith and interest in women of the Bible. Her love of the writings of Khalil Gibran inspired her to perform readings of his works to various religious groups and clubs. Her devotion to her Lebanese heritage was reflected in her contribution to the History Center oral project sponsored by the Junior League. Mary provided a rich and detailed narrative of the early 20th-century Lebanese immigrant experience in Cedar Rapids with personal descriptions of their lives and contributions to our community.
Mary spent many years working for the Cedar Rapids school system as a counselor's secretary at Monroe and Johnson schools. In this capacity she assisted many immigrant families and their children who were new to the Cedar Rapids area. But of special importance was her role as "The Story Lady" for the Cedar Rapids, Marion and Kenwood libraries. Her storytelling was legendary and her love of books and reading inspired children to make the library and reading an essential part their lives.
One of her special passions was sharing her Lebanese heritage with others. She crafted programs for clubs, churches, and schools that celebrated not only Middle Eastern history but also nurtured respect for the diversity in our community. Her travels were always connected with the lives of her children and extended family. A place of special happiness for Mary was the Chautauqua Institution in New York. She spent many summers enjoying family and friends who gathered at the St. Elmo Hotel and who enjoyed the richness of Chautauqua's vibrant cultural life.
Memberships were plentiful in her life and the friendships she made from these groups will not be forgotten. Zeta Phi Eta, the Speech Fraternity, PEO II, and especially the Wednesday Shakespeare Club were ongoing involvements that nurtured her ongoing love of learning.
At the core of her life was devotion to family, faith and a genuine love of artistic expression. These are the gifts that shaped her legacy.
She is survived by two sisters, Mathilda and Catherine; brother, Floyd; and her children, S. Joseph Nassif, Nathan (Briana) Nassif and Catherine (Naser) Payvandi. The dearest ones in her life are her six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and generations of nieces and nephews.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband, Samuel; her parents, Samuel and Selma Slaman; and two brothers, Michael and Eugene Slaman.
Special love and thanks go to her extraordinary care family Carol, Deb, Cathy, Dee, Amy, Renae, Dorothy and Michelle, who guided both her days and nights with love and joy.
A visitation will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at St. George Orthodox Church in Cedar Rapids, with a Trisagion Service beginning at 7 p.m. Funeral service will be held Monday, March 5, 2018, at 10 a.m. at St. George Orthodox Church. Entombment will be at Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery Chapel of Memories.
Mary will be remembered for the many lives she touched and the influences she bestowed on others during her long and cherished life.
Memorials may be directed to St. George Orthodox Church in memory of Mary.
Online condolences may be directed to the family at www.cedarmemorial.com.