Fox 17 was there Feb. 28 at Battle Creek:Chapel Hill UMC when shooting victim, Mary Jo Nye, was memorialized.
Click here for video testimonies remembering her as “an anchor in the storm.”
Nye was one of those killed outside a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Kalamazoo, MI on Feb. 20. She was a life-long active member and leader in The United Methodist Church.
According to her pastor Rev. Chad Parmalee, she had been active at Battle Creek Chapel Hill UMC since the early 2000’s, serving as Chair of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee and most recently the Administrative Council. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers contributions be made in Mary Jo’s name to Chapel Hill.
Further adding to the tragedy was the news that Mary Jo was engaged to retired West Michigan Conference pastor Rev. Lynn Wagner.
According to the State Police, Nye was killed along with friends Dorothy Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68, both of Battle Creek, MI. 14-year-old friend of Barbara Hawthorn, remains in critical condition at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. In a second vehicle, Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, MI, Mary Jo’s sister in-law, was also killed while sitting in her minivan in the restaurant parking lot. The mass shooting also took the lives of father and son, Richard and Tyler Smith of Mattawan, MI who were killed while sitting in their car at a KIA Dealership on Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo. One other individual was shot during the course of the rampage.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mary Jo Nye and all the victims of this senseless killing,” said Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey. “Violence such as this is difficult to understand and yet we find strength in our faith and knowing we are surrounded by the love and prayers of others.”
Mary Jo had met with Bishop Deb and Clergy Assistant to the Bishop Rev. Melanie Carey as recently as last Thursday at the Michigan Area Ministry Center as part of the Committee on Episcopacy, reported committee chairperson Jeannie Banks.
Mary Jo Nye was a life-long United Methodist. As a student at Western Michigan University, she had been active with the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo, where she was known as the chief soup cook in the soup kitchen.
In a message to his congregation, Rev. Parmalee said, “Mary Jo understood that ministry meant reaching into the community and using her gifts to serve those outside her immediate congregation. She sought to reach people in her community and her world.” Mary Jo served as President of the Calhoun County Literacy Council, as a Board Member for the Haven of Rest Ministries, volunteered with the Calhoun County Animal Shelter, and was one of the four founding teachers for Calhoun County Community High School, an alternative education setting in Battle Creek.
Mike Johnson, a friend of more than 40 years and a colleague with the Battle Creek Schools, said, “Mary Jo had a knack for nurturing kids who were hard to reach. She was an anchor in the storm for kids who were adrift.”
Word of the loss spread quickly across social media today. Pastor Sandra Douglas of Westwood UMC in Kalamazoo, posted, “She was a passionate woman, an avid reader and she really “got it ” when we talked about the learning needs of adults and urban youth. Lord, have mercy. Peace.”
“Personally, I have come to know Mary Jo as a dedicated daughter and friend,” reflected Rev. Parmalee. “She cared for people and everyone who served alongside her was inspired by her gifts and her tenacity, but they also left feeling nurtured in their own spirits.”
Funeral information was not available. Those wishing to express condolences may do so by sending them in care of Chapel Hill UMC, 157 Chapel Hill Dr, Battle Creek, MI 49015.
Reported by Mark Doyal, Michigan Area Director of Communication
This story updated on 2.29.16 at 9:00 AM