Marylee Ishmael

Marylee Ishmael

Marylee “Mert” Ishmael, 101, died peacefully at home in Houston, Texas, on May 28, 2021.

Marylee was born on Valentine’s Day, 1920, in Lewis County and attended business college in Lexington. She worked as the second-in-command at a shoe manufacturer, resulting in a lifelong obsession with shoes. At one point, she had over 250 pairs, all samples in her size. Mert also used the leftover leather pieces from shoes to create one-of-a-kind clutch purses. She retired at 76 after working in office management for the Federal Government Agriculture Farming Program in Lewis County.

Mert always made time for the people she loved. She was an active member of Tollesboro Christian Church, where she produced the Sunday Morning Service Bulletin for several years. Throughout her life, she and her daughter, Annette, went on adventures together. Mert was the mother who took Annette and her friends swimming or to dance lessons or on all day shopping excursions. Ever the fashionista, Mert herself loved hunting for clothes that made her feel special and refused to dress like “an old lady.”

Mert also enjoyed cooking and baking with her family. A true chocoholic, she loved making her own creations and discreetly slipping Hershey Kisses to her great-grandchildren. Her Kentucky fried chicken and Christmas jam cake were family favorites during the holidays. In recent years, she preferred to delegate jam cake baking to her daughter and great-grandchildren, passing on the tradition for generations to come. Mert’s expertise in casually identifying the “soft ball” stage for the caramel icing is legendary.

Mert never had a problem speaking her mind and we all loved her for it. Telling it like it is, showing up when we needed her—with a big smile and a wry joke—that is what we will always remember about her. She was hard-working, determined, and the definition of an independent woman. She loved us to bits. The feeling is certainly mutual, Great Ma.

She is survived by her daughter, Annette Betz; grandson, Sean (and Melanie) Coerver; and 3 great-grandchildren: Carlie, Ellie, and Saul Coerver.

She was preceded in death by her mother and father, Anna and Asbury Henderson, and a brother, James Robert Henderson.

A private memorial service and celebration of Marylee’s life will be held in Houston, Texas, at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to Tollesboro Christian Church, 3684 W. KY-10, Tollesboro, KY 41189.