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Mary Ellen (Edwards) Heaton
July 07, 2022


Mary Ellen (Edwards) Heaton, 95, of New Oxford, PA and formerly of Indiana, PA died Thursday, July 7, 2022 at Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, PA.

The daughter of Ira Clair and Margaret Irene (Campbell) Edwards, she was born on September 13, 1926 in Indiana, PA. Mary Ellen was a lifelong resident of Indiana, PA until moving to New Oxford, PA in 2018.

Listed on the Graystone Presbyterian Church “Cradle Roll” from infancy, Mary Ellen embarked on a long tenure as a member of the Graystone Presbyterian Church, where she served as a deacon and elder, and was very active with the Women’s Christian Fellowship. In more recent years, she was welcomed as a member of the Calvary Presbyterian Church family.

Education was at the heart of Mary Ellen’s life. A graduate of Indiana High School, she continued her own education earning a Bachelor’s degree from Indiana State Teacher’s College, a Master’s in Education and Principal Certification from Penn State.

In 1954 she began a thirty year career with the Indiana Area School District as an elementary school teacher. In 1971 Mary Ellen became the first female principal in Indiana, serving as principal at the East Pike and Ben Franklin Elementary Schools before retiring in 1984.

Dedicated to her hometown community, she was actively involved in volunteering with the Visiting Nurse Association, serving on the board of VNA. Mary Ellen was also a volunteer with Meals on Wheels and a desk volunteer at the Indiana Regional Medical Center.

Mary Ellen was an active member of several professional associations including Delta Kappa Gamma Society (Professional Women Educators); Business and Professional Women (BPW); American Association of University Women (AAUW); College Club; AARP and the Indiana Education Association, where she was appointed a district officer for Title IX. At some point, she had served as President, as well as various officer and committee positions, at all these community organizations.

Among her accolades were being named Woman of the Year by BPW and the Volunteer of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees.

Mary Ellen thoroughly believed in encouraging and promoting women within the workplace, educational system and community. In many instances, Mary Ellen was one of the first professional woman to hold several board and officer positions in the aforementioned organizations.

A devoted mother, she loved spending time with her daughters and their husbands, whom she claimed as sons, and being surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Mary Ellen was an avid crossword and jigsaw puzzle aficionado, and passed on her love of puzzle solving to her grandchildren.

Mary Ellen was the wonderful matriarch of her family. She was very proud of the accomplishments and adventures of her immediate and extended family and encouraged them in their aspirations. She loved supporting her grandchildren by attending concerts, graduations, sporting events and other activities where they were involved.

She otherwise filled her free time watching Pittsburgh Pirates baseball and cross-stitching baby quilts for all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Surviving are her two daughters: Cynthia Heaton Nelson and husband, William R. Nelson of Gettysburg, PA and Nancy Heaton Bea and husband, Paul H. Bea of Alexandria, VA; her four grandchildren: Jeffrey Nelson, Kristin Nelson Russo (Scott), Paul Bea (Meghan) and Alexander Bea (Meg); her four great grandchildren: Sofia and Colin Bea, Sadie and Elizabeth Russo and her four nieces and nephews.

Mary Ellen was preceded in death by her parents and her two sisters: Isabel C. Barney and Doris E. Rairigh.

A gathering for family and friends will be held on Monday, July 18 from 1-2:00 p.m. at the Calvary Presbyterian Church, 695 School Street, Indiana, PA, where a 2:00 p.m. service will be officiated by Rev. Richard Cassel. A reception will follow the service. Private interment will take place at the Greenwood Cemetery in Indiana, PA.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to either of the following organizations, where Mary Ellen had dedicated many volunteer hours helping others and then in her later years was the recipient of the wonderful care provided by the Visiting Nurse Association of Indiana County, 850 Hospital Rd., Suite 3000, Indiana, PA 15701 and Meals on Wheels of 534 Philadelphia St., Indiana, PA 15701.

Arrangements are with the assistance of the Rairigh Funeral Home, Ltd. in Hillsdale, PA. Visit to sign Mary Ellen’s guestbook and share a condolence message.

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Rairigh Funeral Home
18944 Rte 286 Hwy East
Hillsdale, PA 15746