AUSTIN — On
October 23, 2021, Mary Ruble Sheehan died peacefully in her sleep at 94 years of age.
Mary was born in Corsicana, Texas, in 1927 to Rolla Elijah (“Lige”) and Minnie Maurice (Roberts) Ruble and grew up with her younger brother Charles Robert (“Bob”) Ruble in McCamey, Texas. She earned a master’s degree in Counseling from the University of Texas in 1949. In 1953, she met and married James R. (“Jim”) Sheehan in San Angelo, and the couple eventually settled in La Marque and League City, Texas. Mary taught special-needs children for several years until her own daughters were born.
In 1967, she resumed her career in the Clear Creek Independent School District where she served as a school psychologist, coordinator of special programs, director, and ultimately assistant superintendent in charge of special programs in the district until her retirement in 1989. During these years, Mary implemented federal guidelines for special education, expanding essential services for students with special needs.
She established a school-health program with 21 nurses, developed testing procedures and an assessment team, and initiated physical and occupational therapy for students. At the invitation of the Texas Education Agency, she piloted and implemented the first Early Childhood program in the state. She also designed the district’s elementary school counseling program with counselors on every elementary campus.
Mary also designed district-wide psychological services and mentored 7 counselors, all of whom moved on to positions of greater responsibility within the district. She mentored 13 psychologists, many of whom continued to serve the district for years even after she retired. She also coordinated the Galveston County Hearing Impaired Cooperative across several school districts.
During a suicide epidemic among students in 1984, she managed the district’s response, supervising intervention across all schools while simultaneously coordinating the media response. She did the same in 1986 following the Challenger explosion, which directly affected so many families in the district encompassing NASA, and subsequently consolidated these responses into the district’s crisis intervention blueprint.
Colleagues and parents repeatedly referenced Mary’s commitment to the team she built and to the children and families she served. She was recognized in her field at the state level, and for sending thoughtful, supportive notes and statements in times of both crisis and celebration. As one school board member stated, “In these years of growth and change … Mary assumed an ever-increasing burden of responsibility. She did so efficiently, quietly, with no pretense of self-importance, and never lost the caring heart for those she served.”
Despite her many contributions through her work, her primary commitment to her family never wavered.
After Mary retired in 1989, she devoted her time to caring for her husband during long periods of illness, and to her grown children and her granddaughter. She also continued to pursue her lifelong love of reading, primarily as a form of her disciplined commitment to continuous learning in the areas of psychology, theology, and spirituality; and to develop her own talent for writing.
She eventually moved to Round Rock, Texas, and ultimately to the Buckner-Campbell nursing home in Austin where she died.
Mary was predeceased by her parents, her husband Jim after 48 years of marriage, and her brother Bob Ruble.
She is survived by her daughters Mary Ruth Sheehan and her prospective adoptive son Luis; Margaret Louise Sheehan and Margaret’s husband Timothy Landrum Stryker; her beloved granddaughter Sara; her sister-in-law Bonnie C. Ruble; and many nieces and nephews with whom she maintained loving bonds throughout her life.
A memorial service to celebrate Mary’s life is planned for 11:00 am on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at the chapel in Forest Park East Cemetery in Webster, Texas, with a brief graveside interment of her ashes to follow. For more information, please see the following link on the Forest Park East website: www.ForestParkEast-FHC.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that those wishing to mark Mary’s passing please send donations in her name to the “Institute of Spirituality and Health” (formerly known as the Institute of Religion) https://archives.library.tmc.edu/institute-of-spirituality-and-health; or to the “Jung Center,” a non-profit resource unique to Houston providing a forum for conversations on a diverse range of psychological, artistic, and spiritual topics https://junghouston.org/about-the-center/.