Mary Ann Mertens, a longtime Claremont resident, died peacefully in her home on Sunday, June 28, surrounded by family, after a battle with cancer. She was 69.
She was born in Pomona on February 20, 1946, the youngest of four children, to Earl and Lucille Hutchison of Montclair. She spent her childhood playing in the neighborhood orange groves tended by her father and riding her bike on Interstate 10 as it was being constructed.
After meeting John Mertens for the first time in the living room of her house, Mary Ann turned to her sister and said, “John is the man I’m going to marry.” She was 17 years old at the time and their engagement was brief. The couple moved to Detroit, Michigan after their wedding in July 1963 while John completed dental school. On July 6, Dr. and Mrs. Mertens would have celebrated their 52nd anniversary.
The couple settled in Claremont in 1969, where Dr. Mertens set up a dental practice. Mrs. Mertens worked as a volunteer for the Alliance to the American Dental Association (AADA) for more than 25 years, serving as president on the local and state levels before becoming the national president in 1992.
Through her volunteer work, Mrs. Mertens educated Claremont schoolchildren about the importance of proper dental hygiene and helped form political action committees that worked to eventually urge legislators to pass laws securing dental benefits for military personnel.
Mary lived her life devoted to God. “Always positive, her unending faith made her the wonderful, beautiful person that she was,” family shared, adding that she was deeply loved by friends and relatives alike.
Laura Mandzok said, “Her faith and devotion brought many closer to God, changing their lives for good, and that fact gave her great joy.”
Melissa Bird noted that Mrs. Mertens’ favorite activity was spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. “She loved just watching them play,” Mrs. Bird said. “I always admired how she always put others before herself.”
Mrs. Mertens enjoyed traveling with family or close friends. She and Dr. Mertens often enjoyed weekend golf trips together. She didn’t let her illness stop her from living her life to the fullest, even taking multiple trips to Europe.
After her cancer diagnosis, Mrs. Mertens maintained her jubilant outlook.
“Mary was always smiling. Her attitude was always positive,” her husband John said. “She always inspired people, even after just meeting them or having a brief conversation. She will always be remembered by her never-ending smile.”
She is survived by her husband John H. Mertens, DDS; by her daughters and sons-in-law, Laura and Chris Mandzok and Melissa and Sean Bird, and by her five beautiful grandchildren, Emma Bird, Anne Bird, Cyril Mandzok, Lillian Mandzok and Xavi Mandzok.
Memorial services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the City of Hope.