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Mary Ann Etu, 75, led efforts statewide to provide vocational training for women and girls

Mary Ann Etu, 75, led efforts statewide to provide vocational training for women and girls

April 30, 1944 – Jan. 3, 2020

Mary Ann Etu, whose leadership in providing vocational training for women and girls across New York State earned her a place on the Wall of Fame in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, died Jan. 3 in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a brief illness. She was 75.

Born in Manhattan, she grew up in the Schenectady area and was a 1962 graduate of Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam.

She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in home economics education from SUNY Plattsburgh.

After college, she taught home economics from 1967 to 1974 in West Babylon High School on Long Island, where she established student Future Homemakers of America leadership training at the local and state levels.

Ms. Etu joined the state education department in 1974 and was appointed to the position of sex equity coordinator in 1980, administering millions of dollars in federal vocational education funds.

She was responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating programs that promoted equal opportunities for women and assisted single parents and displaced homemakers, working through BOCES.

She set up numerous initiatives to help women advance through technical training via Project VOICE – Vocational Options in Creating Equity – which she helped establish. It later became the New York State Equity Center and then the Career Options Institute.

She was president of the Vocational Education Equity Council, a board member of the Girl Scouts of America and the New York State Association of Women in Administration and a member of the National Coalition for Sex Equity in Education and the National Leadership Development Conference.

She served as the first president of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, or NAPE, and was a founding board member of the NAPE Educational Foundation. She was recognized nationwide for her expertise in career and technical development programs.

Her citation on the Wall of Fame said: “The best thing about Mary Ann is that while others sat in meetings working on ways to implement a program, (she) would have already left the room and gotten started.”

She retired in 1999 and moved to Lewes, Del., where she joined several friends as partners in a women-owned business, Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor.

Her skills in design, retailing and marketing helped the farm become a leading agritourism attraction in southern Delaware. It won the U.S. Small Business Association’s Women’s Business Champions of the Year for Delaware in 2012.

After 12 years, she retired from the business and became involved with community organizations in and around Lewes. She was a volunteer with the Greater Lewes Community Village, which assists seniors in independent living.

She became a master gardener through a program sponsored by the University of Delaware and the Delaware State University Cooperative Extension Service, and took part in the annual Lewes in Bloom. Lewes in Bloom has repeatedly earned the community recognition as one of the most beautiful small towns in the nation.

She moved to the Buffalo area a few months ago to be close to other members of her family.

Survivors include a brother, Peter M.; a niece, Erie County Judge Susan Eagan; nephews; great-nieces; and great-nephews.

A Memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Joseph University Catholic Church, 3269 Main St.

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