Mary Jane SmithMay 15, 1928 ~ January 15, 2017 (age 88)
COLONIE Mary Jane Smith, 88, fierce lifetime advocate for social and economic justice, died peacefully, at her home on Sunday, January 15, 2017. Mary Jane was born on May 15, 1928, in Saratoga Springs to Elizabeth and Samuel Smith. She graduated St. Peter's Academy as valedictorian, then entered the Order of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondolet, serving as a nun for 28 years. Most of that time was spent teaching in various Catholic schools and as principal of St. Jude's in Wynantskill. In the early1970's, she was inspired to serve people living in poverty. She saw a need in Troy, and moved there to live among those in need. Franciscans Regis Obijiski and Peter Callahan joined forces with her, and in 1971, they founded Unity House on 8th Street in Troy. Mary Jane served as executive director of Unity House until retiring in 1991, and then continued to be active in many organizations seeking to make lives better and empowering people to realize their capabilities. Her volunteer service continued at Unity House, where as recently as last summer, she was helping to serve community meals. Mary Jane's extended family included a broad community of friends, fellow advocates, and community leaders with whom she shared a lifetime of meaningful experiences. She possessed the extraordinary gift of making every person believe that they were the most important person in the world. Through her example and leadership, she inspired three generations to live up to their fullest potential in caring for others in many communities.
Mary Jane is predeceased by her parents and two sisters, Patricia and Margaret Smith; also by her beloved husband of 24 years, Reverend John H. Lyons. She is survived by a sister, Elizabeth (Jim) Fisher of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; one niece, and four nephews; stepdaughters Ronda Lyons (Troy), Della (Tim) Fisher (Anchorage), Cindy Turnbull (Niskayuna), and their eight children and three grandchildren.
The family is grateful for the steady stream of friends visiting over the last few months, providing good cheer, nursing care, food, and stories that miraculously strengthened and enriched her life. Mary Jane donated her remains to the anatomical program at Albany Medical Center.
A celebration Mass of Mary Jane's life will be held at 1pm at the St. Joseph Provincial House in Latham, on Monday, January 23. The Mass will be followed by a reception. Please use the parking lot and entrance off Delatour Road. In memory of Mary Jane, donations are requested to the Deuteronomy Fund at Unity House at 2431 6th Ave., Troy, NY 12180, or to the charity of your choice .