Mary Katharine (Tansey) Devens, 93, passed away quietly on Feb. 2, 2023, in Blacksburg.
Born in 1929 at West Point, N.Y., Mary was the fourth child and the 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, D.C. 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 her family on the first troop ship to Tokyo, Japan – even as enemy submarines still patrolled. Stories later surfaced about her family’s efforts to feed and support destitute Japanese during post-war recovery.
Mary was even deferred to 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 eight children, 19 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren. They served the US Army at Ft Sill, Oklahoma and Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri, and then Mary and her three small children stayed in Washington D.C. during Bud’s Korean War combat duty.
After the war, their family reunited in Okinawa, Japan, for Bud’s assignment there. Next came Champagne, Ill., and then a faculty assignment to West Point. Hardship tours followed with assignments to Paris 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, Va., 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, Vt., Mary and Bud moved their family to Blacksburg 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 and activities, plus countless Hokie games. Mary faithfully served St Mary’s Catholic Church as communion minister and as 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.
Mary was 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.
A celebration of Mary’s life will be held at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Blacksburg, at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. Internment and a reception will follow. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive, Blacksburg. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to a favorite charity or to St. Mary’s Church.
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