Northcrest Community

Northcrest Memorials | Mary Jo Brearley

Northcrest Memorials | Mary Jo Brearley

Mary Jo (Bradford) Brearley, age 90, of Ames, passed away peacefully on Monday, March 23, 2020, at her home in Northcrest Community, where she had lived for the past 12 years.

Due to CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19, a memorial service will be held at a later date. Burial was in the Iowa State Cemetery.

Mary Jo (Bradford) Brearley was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 3, 1930, the daughter of George William Bradford, a monument salesman, and Mary Josephine Ogle Bradford, a school physical education teacher. She grew up in Tulsa enjoying music, dance, art, books, and Girl Scouting. She graduated from Will Rogers High School in the class of 1947, then earned B.A. (1951) and M.A. (1954) degrees in English from the University of Tulsa.

She taught high school English in Lamar, Colorado, for a year before earning her M.A., and then moved to Syracuse, New York, to study for a PhD in English literature at Syracuse University. She also was a staff member at the Syracuse YWCA. She met Harrington C. Brearley, Jr., an electrical engineer at General Electric in Syracuse, at a YWCA gathering, and the two were married on December 28, 1957. They had three children: Ann, born in Syracuse; William, born in Champaign-Urbana, where Harry taught at the University of Illinois; and Caroline, born in Ames, where Harry taught at Iowa State University.

Mary Jo lived in Ames from 1965 until her death. During that time, she was active in the League of Women Voters, serving as its co-president (2002-2004); at Collegiate Presbyterian Church, serving on Session; in the Ames Octagon; in several book clubs, and in many other civic and artistic organizations. She took courses in accounting, which she enjoyed, and worked as a seasonal tax preparer in the 1970’s. In 1980, she resumed her English teaching career as an instructor of freshman English at Iowa State University, continuing until her retirement in the 1990’s.

Mary Jo’s lifelong love of dancing began with her parents who were square dance callers in Tulsa. Mary Jo and her brother Johnny performed dance exhibitions, taught dance at summer camps in the Colorado mountains, and served as a demonstration couple for dance pioneer Lloyd Shaw’s dance leader classes in Colorado Springs. Later in life, in Ames, Mary Jo called square dances and taught ballroom dancing for various church and community groups. She danced with local contra dance, English Country dance, and Scottish dance groups in Ames into her eighties, and played piano for the Onion Creek Cloggers Band in her seventies and eighties. In addition to dance, Mary Jo loved music, playing the piano, violin and guitar, and singing. She was also a true bookworm and could devour a novel in a night. She nurtured a love of music, dance, and books in all three of her children.

Mary Jo is survived by her children, Ann (Chris Hagen) Brearley of Plymouth, MN, William (Katie Sanger) Brearley of Ballston Lake, NY, and Caroline (Steve Meyer) Brearley of Stuttgart, Germany; her grandchildren, Rachel Hagen, Russell Brearley, Hannah Hagen, Anastasia Meyer, and Katya Meyer; and her brother John (Nita) Bradford of Lakewood, Colorado. She was preceded in death by her husband Harrington.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Adams Funeral Home and online condolences may left for Mary Jo’s family at

Memorial contributions in honor of Mary Jo may be directed to the Northcrest Foundation, 1801 20th Street, Ames, Iowa 50010.

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