Devens, Mary Tansey

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Mary Katharine (Tansey) Devens, 93, passed away quietly on February 2, 2023, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Her storied life recounts vivid images of historic events and military service, and demonstrates an enduring love of country, family, our Lord, and our Blessed Lady.

Born in 1929 at West Point, New York, Mary was the fourth child and only daughter of Major General and Mrs. Patrick H. Tansey, along with four brothers who later served as field-grade military officers. Their close-knit, Army family spent her childhood years at various assignments: Waikiki Beach, Hawaii; Washington, DC; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Camp Jackson, South Carolina.

Mary spent her teen years in Washington, DC during WWII – as her father planned wartime logistics while the family worried about three of her Army officer brothers who served in combat units. After the WWII victory in Europe, MG Tansey received orders to join Gen McArthur’s Pacific Theater staff, so Mary sailed with family on the first troop ship to Tokyo, Japan – even as enemy submarines still patrolled. Living and attending school in bombed-out Tokyo proved to be distressing, and yet fascinating and inspiring. Stories later surfaced about her family’s efforts to feed and support destitute Japanese during post-war recovery. Mary was even donned as “Mary-san” by a classmate – the new Empress of Japan.

In 1947 Tokyo, Mary Tansey met William George “Bud” Devens – a dashing Second Lieutenant and West Point graduate. A lifetime romance of 59 years began. Their union yielded a grand legacy of 8 children, 19 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren. They served the US Army in Ft Sill, Oklahoma and Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri, then Mary and her three small children stayed in Washington DC during Bud’s Korean War combat duty.

After the war, their family reunited in Okinawa, Japan for Bud’s assignment there. Next came Champagne, Illinois, and then a faculty assignment to West Point, New York. Hardship tours followed, with assignments to Paris, France, and then to a perilous, Soviet-surrounded Berlin in 1962. Mary managed her large family and served the Army community wherever they went. Together, they completed Bud’s final military assignment at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and then retired from the Army in 1966. During her 39 years of military life, Mary crossed the Pacific Ocean six times in troop ships and moved on 26 occasions.

After a brief stay in Norwich, Vermont – Mary and Bud moved their family to Blacksburg, Virginia in 1967. Mary volunteered for her children’s activities, and hosted many of Bud’s departmental events at Virginia Tech. They attended kids’ sporting events & activities, plus countless Hokie games. Mary faithfully served St Mary’s Catholic Church as communion minister and an active member of Church Ladies. She volunteered at the Humane Society Thrift Shop, and served in the Trillium Garden Club for 44 years.

All told, Mary Devens was born and raised in the US Army, served as an Army wife, and raised eight children – six of whom served as military officers. She gladly served her country and faced danger. She endured hard living conditions, endless moves, and many tiresome journeys. But it was always with family: her father and mother and brothers – and with Bud and the children. Mary was a loving wife, mother, and friend. She and Bud instilled in their children a great love of God, family, and country. She provided a fine community example wherever they went, and touched so many people in her positive and kind manner. Mary was intelligent, sharp, and full of fun – embracing life with a strong, never-give-up attitude. Standing proud among her ancestors, brothers, husband, and offspring, Mary Devens rightfully deserves that final and traditional West Point farewell: “Well done. Be thou at peace.”

Mary is preceded in death by her husband, LTC William George Devens, her brothers Col Patrick H Tansey Jr., Col Hubert E Tansey, Commander Mike Tansey, and Col Robert Tansey; grandson Derek Devens and great-grandson James Donnally.

Mary is survived by her sisters-in-law: Mrs. Bob Tansey, and Mrs. Mike Tansey; along with many dear nieces, nephews, and friends.
The pride and loves of Mary’s life were her husband, Bud, and their eight children, spouses and families: Bill and Donnie Devens, Pat and Patty Devens, Mary Jo and Reaumur Donnally, Bob and Elissa Devens, Diane and John Harvey, Tim and Lynn Devens, Ted and Barbara Devens, Jamie and Karen Devens, 19 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren.

A celebration of Mary’s life will be held at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Blacksburg, VA, at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, February 11, 2023. Internment and reception will follow. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday evening, February 10, 2023, at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive, Blacksburg.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you donate to your favorite charity or St. Mary’s Church.