Catholic 02

Mary Alice (née Burke) Schaaf

December 14, 1923 ~ October 2, 2021 (age 97)


Mary Alice Schaaf 
Age 97, of St. Paul, passed away peacefully on October 2, 2021.
She was the daughter of Edmund and Inez K. Burke of San Diego, California. Mrs. Schaaf was a member of the Visitation class of 1941 and attended the College of St. Catherine and University of Minnesota.She was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, John R. Schaaf of St. Paul. For 63 years she was a member of St. Leo the Great Church and Lumen Christi Catholic Community. Mrs. Schaaf was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on December 14, 1923. Her father, Edmund Burke, served as a corporate executive for both the International Harvester Corporation and Convair (General Dynamics), which resulted in Mary spending her young childhood in New Rochelle, New York; she moved to St. Paul in 1934, San Diego in 1943, and finally returned to St. Paul in 1946. Mrs. Schaaf’s husband, John, was owner and president of Schaaf Manufacturing in Minneapolis from 1946 until his retirement in 1980. Mrs. Schaaf was a self-effacing, conscientious, loving mother of five children, eleven grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. Mary connected with friends through volunteering at St. Leo’s Church and School and Ramsey Hospital, sewing, gardening, tennis, and bowling at the Minneapolis Athletic Club. For a time she tried painting, in emulation of her mother, who took up painting at an advanced age. Mary will be remembered for her positivity, kindness, work ethic, down-to-earth practicality, humility, caring, gentleness, and compassion for others. These many positive characteristics were learned from her family of origin and school life at Visitation. Mary was quietly proud of her family. Her father, Edmund Burke, served on the Board of Directors of General Dynamics Corporation until age 88, passing away at the age of 108. Her uncle, John Burke, served as Governor of North Dakota, Treasurer of the United States for eight years during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, and finally as Chief Justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. John Burke’s statue represents North Dakota in the United States Capitol Rotunda, National Statuary Hall, Washington, DC. Another uncle, Monsignor Ambrose Burke, PhD, served as president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. At the time of his death at the age of 102, he was the oldest living Catholic priest in the United States. Mrs. Schaaf was preceded in death by daughter, Mary Ann McGuire of Minneapolis and brothers Dr. Edmund C. Burke of Rochester, Minnesota; John R. Burke of Laguna Hills, California; and one sister, Frances B. Smith of Dallas, Texas. She is survived by daughter Elizabeth A. Backe (Ken) of St. Paul and sons John R. Schaaf, Jr. (Jeanne) of North Oaks, and Dr. Robert E. Schaaf (Diane) and Dr. Thomas J. Schaaf (Karen), both of Raleigh, North Carolina. Mary will be greatly missed by family and friends, and her spirit will live on through those who knew her. Thank you to those friends and caregivers who watched over Mary these past several years. Private family service and burial at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery. Memorials preferred to Highland Catholic School, 2017 Bohland Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55116 or Visitation School, 2455 Visitation Drive, Mendota Heights, MN 55120.


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