Mary McVay Spaulding, a former Marine, teacher and Capitol Hill staffer, died Monday in the Fairfax, a senior living residence in Fort Belvoir, Va., after a brief illness. She was 81.
She raised seven children after her husband, Marine Lt. Col. Jack D. Spaulding, died in 1966 in the Vietnam War.
Born Mary Eleanor McVay in Buffalo, she grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland. Her family later returned to Buffalo, where she became the poet laureate of Kenmore High School and graduated in 1942.
After a year at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., she joined the Marine Corps during World War II and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
While driving officers in the motor pool, she caught the eye of young Lt. Spaulding, also from Buffalo, and they were married in 1945.
Mrs. Spaulding received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Virginia in 1970 and taught at Flint Hill Elementary School before moving into a decade-long career on Capitol Hill. Starting in the office of the House journal clerk, she ultimately anchored the staffs of two members of Congress -- John B. Anderson of Illinois, who later ran as an independent candidate for president, and William L. Armstrong of Colorado. She retired in 1979.
Mrs. Spaulding was a founding member of the PAX Catholic community of Northern Virginia 35 years ago.
Nicknamed "Mac" by her close friends, she ruled the bridge table and devoured literature and poetry.
She was a prolific painter; many of her watercolors were set against the backdrop of summer days at a family beach cottage in Delaware.
"She had a lifelong love of learning and an always inquisitive mind," said her daughter Suzanne E. of McLean, Va. "She became a tireless world traveler and visited a wide variety of destinations, including China immediately after it was reopened to visitors in 1976. She also had a special place in her heart for Hawaii, where our family was once stationed."
Mrs. Spaulding returned to live in Buffalo from 1979 to 1985 while married to Hilmer Carlson, also of Buffalo.
In addition to her daughter Susan, survivors include another daughter, Julia M. Paradis of Alexandria, Va.; five sons, Douglas K. of Burke, Va., Mark E. and Gregory G., both of Santa Rosa, Calif., Andrew D. of Los Angeles and Paul L. of Chester, Va.; two sisters, Ruth M. Beik of State College, Pa., and Helen M. Brush of Hemet, Calif.; a brother, Donald H. McVay Jr. of Dumfries, Va.; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandsons.
Entombment will be in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.