After a long and fulfilling life, Carson resident Mary Lee Patterson Zachary passed away on May 17. She was 94 years old.
Mary Lee was well known throughout educational circles due to her successful career as a cafeteria manager for the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Community College District. Her tenure at both agencies totaled 36 years.
A native of Lancaster, South Carolina, Mary Lee was born on August 31, 1922, to Willie and Irene Barnes Patterson. Her family soon moved to Fort Mill, SC, where she accepted Christ as her Savior at a young age and attended St. James AME Zion Church in that city.
Remembered by many as a bright and intelligent child, Mary Lee excelled in her studies as a student at George Fish Colored School, Clinton Junior College and Hampton Institute/University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from A&T State University in 1945 and over the next several decades, she continued her education by enrolling in post-graduate classes and workshops.
Mary Lee’s first job as an assistant dietician at A&T led to her meeting the love of her life, Major Otis O. Zachary, a career Army officer. They married in 1948 and traveled the world together, living in Germany, Italy and Mexico before settling in Southern California.
During her career at the school and college districts, Mary Lee was popular among students, faculty and staff. According to her sister, Elizabeth P. White, “Some chose her for friendship, others as a mother image. She gave advice, suggestions and just plain listened, being a sounding board for those who needed someone to hear what they had to say.”
She retired in 1997 and she and her husband enjoyed traveling around the country and abroad. Also, they were active in the community with the William Leavell VFW Post 9793, Ladies Auxiliary VFW, Public Employees Retirement System and AARP.
In 2008, Mary Lee suffered a stroke, losing her ability to speak. However, she adjusted to a new way of life, recalled Elizabeth, “and joined the illustrious group of instructors and participants at the Joseph B. Junior and Mary Anne O’Neal Stroke Center in Carson.”
Four years later, Mary Lee was honored by the 1894 Society in Rock Hill, SC as the oldest living graduate of Clinton Junior College. She also traveled in 2015 to the Patterson Family Reunion in Salisbury, NC.
Mary Lee’s husband, Otis; sister, Irene P. Russell, and brother, John E. Patterson, preceded her in death. Cherishing her memory are her daughter, Cornelia Carmen Bluitt; sisters, Ruth P. Meachum, Lena P. Davis and Elizabeth P. White; three grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.