Sept. 7, 1929 – May 4, 2015
Mary Eldred Newland Soltis began her professional life flying coast to coast as an American Airlines stewardess, but it was in Wheatfield where she established roots that spawned a five-decade-long legacy of volunteer work.
Mrs. Soltis, a fixture at North Presbyterian Church in North Tonawanda and several other local institutions, died Monday. She was 85.
Born in Toronto, she was a graduate of St. Clement’s School and later earned a degree from the University of Toronto. Mrs. Soltis was also part of a group of Canadian women recruited in 1951 to work as stewardesses at American’s hub in Buffalo. Not long after that, she met a young Air Force pilot who lived across the hall from her in Snyder.
She and William Soltis married in 1954 and spent the next decade raising a family while living at military postings in Alaska, Florida, Michigan and finally Massachusetts. On the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, Maj. Soltis was honored by South Korea for his 100 combat missions.
After his retirement in 1963, the couple settled in Wheatfield and became active with North Presbyterian Church, where Mrs. Soltis served on the session and as deacon, trustee, and a member of several church committees. In the 1980s, the church sponsored a Laotian refugee boat family and Mrs. Soltis was active in helping them find housing and adapt to everyday life here.
“Mother’s first volunteer experience occurred with the Red Cross while she was a student at St. Clement’s School, and it led to her lifelong pursuit of embracing behind-the-scenes responsibilities that ultimately made a big difference,” said her daughter, Linda Lee Newland Soltis.
As the mother of two daughters and a son, she was a Boy Scout den mother, 4-H Mom, assistant Brownie leader and Girl Scout cookie chair. She spent her summers at the Newland family cottage in Barrie, Ont., where she reconnected with childhood friends, and over the years passed onto her children and grandchildren a love of animals.
She also was a 20-year member and past president of Coterie Inc., an organization dedicated to helping families and patients living with lung and respiratory disease.
Despite her ties here, Mrs. Soltis remained a lifelong Canadian, proud of her family’s nearly 200-year presence there, as well as its roots in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Other survivors include a son, Michael, and two grandchildren. Her daughter Andrea died of cancer in 1992 and her husband died in 2013.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Monday at North Presbyterian Church, 168 Payne Ave., North Tonawanda.