Mary Jane Brandes, of Cedar Rapids, died peacefully on her 92nd birthday, September 22, 2022, at Meth-Wick Community.
Mary Jane was born September 22, 1930, to Leo and Dorothy (Dana) Gogg, in Charles City, Iowa. She grew up in northeast Iowa and graduated from Waverly High School before earning her teaching degree from Iowa State Teachers College in 1950. In June 1952, Mary Jane married the love of her life, James Conrad Brandes, in Waverly, Iowa. They moved to Iowa City while Jim attended dental school at the University of Iowa, and there they welcomed their first son, Matthew. Following Jim’s graduation, the family moved to Cedar Rapids, where Jim established his dental practice, and their son Michael was born.
Mary Jane developed her strong work ethic early, helping in her parent’s grocery store. She started her professional life teaching in an elementary school in Kalona, Iowa. When her boys started school, Mary Jane returned to work as an early childhood educator at Linn County Public Health, First Presbyterian Church, and St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Her gift for teaching and engaging children in joyful learning made her beloved to many children and parents. In 1977, Mary Jane transitioned from teaching to helping Jim run their dental practice. As the office manager and receptionist, Mary Jane greeted patients with a warm smile, becoming the heart of a healthcare team that touched the lives of many in our community.
Mary Jane was a brilliant cook and homemaker who shared her talents for creating beautiful spaces and joyous events with her family and circle of friends. She and Jim enjoyed golfing, boating, and hosting dinners and card games in their lovely home. As the years went by, Mary Jane and Jim were looking forward to enjoying retirement, but life had other plans. Jim died suddenly in 1993, and Mary Jane started a new chapter of life. She found comfort in her circle of longtime friends and had the good fortune to meet new friends who shared her interest in travel, entertaining, and playing golf, Bridge, and Mahjongg. Mary Jane was a thoughtful and devoted friend to many and particularly enjoyed many happy times with her dear friends Mary Evers and Jean Hopp. In September 2019, she moved to the Meth-Wick Community, where she made more good friends among the residents and staff.
Mary Jane exemplified the virtues of strong faith and dedication to the Catholic Church. She loved God and served others with true humility. She was an active member of St. Matthew Catholic Parish and frequently volunteered for Mercy Medical Center Auxiliary and the Catherine McAuley Center. When they married, Jim was not Catholic, and Mary Jane prayed for her husband to share her faith. Through God’s grace and her good example, he did. He took the classes to convert quietly without her knowledge. It brought her great joy when she discovered he was working towards conversion. This story became a touchstone for our family—one of many examples of their deep, faithful, and love-filled marriage.
Mary Jane’s great happiness was her family. She was a wonderful, dedicated daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother. She took great joy in her children and grandchildren, delighting in playing games, baking, and creating lifelong traditions and memories. She had a gift for making her loved ones feel seen, appreciated, and loved. Her graciousness, humor, and thoughtfulness drew her family close and built deep connections that spanned generations. She had a talent for imbuing holidays and everyday occasions with meaning and love. She was deeply loved and will be dearly missed. Her hallmark phrase was “love you, fierce.” These three words became our family’s short-hand sign-off. Mary Jane loved fiercely and left the world brighter, more beautiful, and peaceful through her presence.
Mary Jane is survived by her son, Matthew Brandes (Jeanne) of Cedar Rapids; granddaughters, Kate Beihl (Aden), Iowa City, Martha Brandes (Ronan Farrell), Naas, Ireland, Laura Ebinger (Tom), Iowa City; great-grandchildren (her VIPS) Lincoln, Archer, and Parker Beihl; Saorla and Ailidh Farrell; Maggie, Molly, and Charlie Ebinger, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and beloved son Michael Joseph, brother Richard Gogg, sister Laura Gogg Strotman, sister-in-law Marlene Gogg, and brother-in-law Bruce Strotman.
Visitation will be held at Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, September 25 with a Vigil Service beginning at 4:00 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will take place Monday, September 26 at 10 a.m., at St. Matthew Catholic Church, Cedar Rapids. Private family inurnment at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Waverly, Iowa.
In lieu of flowers, please direct memorials to St. Matthew Catholic Church, Catherine McAuley Center, or Mercy Medical Center Foundation.
The family wishes to thank the nurses and staff at The Woodlands, Meth-Wick Community for their loving care.