Mary Kay Pinkard dies at age 94

A young Mary Kay poses in a dress she made of turkey feathers as her first husband, Alanson “A.P.” Holly, playfully looks on, in this 1938 photograph. Photo courtesy of the Holly and Pinkard families
A young Mary Kay poses in a dress she made of turkey feathers as her first husband, Alanson “A.P.” Holly, playfully looks on, in this 1938 photograph. Photo courtesy of the Holly and Pinkard families

By Jessica King

One of the few Ramona residents who could tell firsthand accounts of the town’s earliest days has died of natural causes. She was 94.

It was no secret former longtime Ramona Chamber of Commerce secretary Mary Kay Pinkard loved her hometown.

“It was a town she wanted to live in the rest of her life and she made it,” said Lee Pinkard

, Mary Kay’s husband for the past 45 years.

Mary Kay was born on April 25, 1918, in the Adams House, a two-story hotel built on Main Street by Ramona pioneer Abel Adams in 1888. Adams sold the property in the early 1900s to Mary Kay’s grandmother, Ida May Kearney.

The Kearney family already ran the larger Kenilworth Inn on Main Street and used the Adams House more like a boarding house than a hotel until the Adams House was torn down in 1936.

Mary Kay’s parents, Mark and Jessie Kearney, called the Adams House home when she was born.

In a 2010 interview, Mary Kay explained how her parents had planned to live in the Adams House for just a short time but ended up staying there for about five years.

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Lee Pinkard and Lancey Wilson peruse the many awards Mary Kay Pinkard received through the years, including one of her favorites — Ramona Chamber of Commerce’s 1983 Citizen of the Year. Sentinel photo/Jessica King

“I remember being about 3 years old and skipping across Main Street, dodging all the horses and wagons,” she said. “I never walked. I always skipped. There was an old man who lived on the other side of the street and one day he asked me why I always skipped and I remember telling him what I thought should have been obvious: ‘because it gets me there faster!’”

More recently, when anyone would pass Mary Kay out and about, and ask how she was, her reply was always the same — “Perfect!”

Another story Mary Kay loved to retell was the meeting of her parents. It’s the kind of story that sounds as if it were plucked right out of an old-fashioned western film.

Her mother met Mark Kearney when she traveled from Illinois to California to teach and he drove the stagecoach that brought her “up the hill” from San Diego to Ramona.

Mary Kay’s formative years revolved around the then-state-of-the-art inn, with such luxuries as a restaurant, indoor plumbing and a communal telephone and telegraph service. Mary Kay helped her family host guests, dinner parties and other social gatherings until the business burned down in 1943.

“That was always a huge part of mother’s life,” said Bella Vista resident Lancey Wilson, one of Mary Kay’s two daughters with her first husband, Alanson “A.P.” Holly, who was also known as Lance. Wilson described her mother as always outgoing and fond of social graces, including white gloves when the occasion called for it.

Lee Pinkard and his future wife met as children, though it would be decades yet before they wed.

“I knew her from grammar school,” recalled Lee. “She was one year ahead of me. Her mother was a trustee for years so she got treated like a queen.”

“I think what Lee means is she was a good girl in school, a teacher’s pet, and he was the opposite, a little bit of a rebel,” explained Wilson.

“Yes, I was, that’s right,” laughed Lee.

Mary Kay married her daughters’ father in 1936, the year she graduated from high school. Together, the two helped Holly’s family run one of town’s largest turkey ranches at the time. To help promote the business, Mary Kay and her mother created an entire line of women’s clothes made of turkey feathers.

Photographs of Mary Kay modeling the turkey garments were featured in Life magazine and other publications.

Lee, who married Mary Kay two years after her first husband died, said at least some of that turkey clothing remains in storage with him today.

Clothing — with or without turkey feathers — was a lifelong passion for Mary Kay, said Wilson, pointing to the converted closet room in Mary Kay’s Third Street home. According to Wilson, every visit to Mom’s included a shopping trip.

Mary Kay also was known for her collection of stuffed Teddy bears and her baking talents, which rarely involved measuring the ingredients. She baked “with a pinch of this” and “a little bit of that,” according to Wilson.

“It was absolutely a major part of her we all remembered,” said Wilson, referring to her mother’s baking talents.

Wilson said Mary Kay aimed to please, so if there was a gathering with 15 people and every one of those people had a different favorite type of pie, she would go out of her way to make 15 different flavored pies.

Mary Kay also made sure to set time aside for her girlfriends. She, along with a handful of

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Lee Pinkard fondly recalls the girl he grew up with and later wed, staying together 45 years. Sentinel photo/Jessica King

other women, formed a ladies bridge club in Ramona that still meets today.

Mary Kay worked for the Ramona Chamber of Commerce as its secretary for 23 years, retiring in 1993. She was also the town’s first honorary mayor and, along with Lee, volunteered countless hours to Ramona’s annual rodeo, fair and similar events.

The couple also earned a reputation during that time of being avid Bulldog basketball fans, enthusiastically attending high school hoop games and garnering “Fan of the Year” awards.

“She welcomed the chance to show off her hometown,” said Wilson of her mother’s civic involvements.

Through the years, Wilson and her sister, Markay Schroeder of Laguna Beach, tried to convince their mother and Lee to move closer to one of them. But she refused, said Wilson.

Wilson speculated it was Mary Kay’s family roots, lifelong friendships and fond memories that made it impossible for her to call anywhere but Ramona home.

In addition to her husband and daughters, her sister Georgia May Hunter of Las Vegas; son-in-law Gary Wilson; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren survive Mary Kay, who died on June 30.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Mary Kay’s honor to the Ramona Senior Center, Ramona High School Dollars for Scholars or Elizabeth Hospice.

A private family memorial will be held, Wilson said.

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