Randall Donner
Randall Donner, Communications Senior Professional

Small and Sassy, Mary is “Queen of the House”

To hear Mary Otto tell it, she has been 37 years old for more than 40 years now. Oh, and she is the queen of the home she shares with a few other ladies. 

Because she has an intellectual disability, Mary had been placed in a nursing home back in the 1970s. It was not a good placement for Mary, who was in her 30s and in pretty good health. She was able to move out when she found a place with a disability services provider organization, but later chose to move to Mosaic, and she’s now been in her home since 1986. 

Mary’s tiny size (she’s 4’6” tall) belies her big personality and strength of will. She is a two-time cancer survivor and, a staff member says, is kind of “sassy” and loves to joke around. 

“She is no longer able to walk and is in a wheelchair,” said April Lingle, direct support manager. “Even so, she will often tell staff that she is going to get up and leave if things do not go the way she wants them to.”

From her family members (Mary has a sister and two brothers in the area), staff learned that Mary’s nickname as a child was “Mary Sunshine.” The nickname really fits her, Lingle said.

“She is very happy, almost all the time. Her nickname was Mary Sunshine, but she will tell you that’s not her name anymore, that she is a stinker—even though she is almost always smiling and usually laughing,” Lingle said. 

Until a few years back, Mary was actively participating in a Mosaic day program outside of her home, but has now “retired” from it, Lingle said, because it meant getting up too early. Mosaic works to provide people with what they find meaningful, and for Mary, that starts with a great night’s rest and sleeping in until she’s ready to get up, not following someone else’s schedule. 

For the rest of the day, Mary chooses to watch her favorite old TV shows— “Little House on the Prairie” is high on her list. Lingle said Mary cries about much of what she watches, whether it is a happy ending or sad, stories always move her. She also loves the Hallmark Channel, especially the endless assortment of Christmas movies and will watch Harry Potter movies over and over (each time telling you she hasn’t ever seen them). 

Mary also loves to nap, and of course, to eat—even if everything is pureed, including her favorite pizza, burgers and fries. She used to love reading, but with failing eyesight, that became difficult. So every day, a staff member takes the time to read to her instead.

Lingle said that between the cancer battles, losing her ability to walk and see well, Mary hasn’t lost a bit of her spirit.

“She has lost so much in her life, but she doesn’t let that affect her,” Lingle said. “She might be tiny, but she has a spirit. She makes the home full of joy and brightens the day of her staff and housemates.”

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