PALMER: Makes impact through career

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2014

Having it all: Mary Palmer has successfully juggled a 53 year career while raising a family. Her family has come to include co-workers, customers and fellow insurance agents.  She has no plans for retirement anytime soon, much to the delight of her employers and customers. Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

Having it all: Mary Palmer has successfully juggled a 53 year career while raising a family. Her family has come to include co-workers, customers and fellow insurance agents. She has no plans for retirement anytime soon, much to the delight of her employers and customers.
Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

Mary Edith Palmer has been the face of McDonald Burial Insurance Agency, which is associated with McDonald Funeral Home, for more than 53 years. 

The soft-spoken, genteel mother of two and one foster son has also been a family figure for two generations of McDonalds, as they have grown up around the family business over the years.

“She is part of our family,” Kenny McDonald said. “She is one of my grandmothers. I was always (hanging around) with Mrs. Mary when I was growing up. We would visit with her while she worked and she has always been in my life. She has been there working full time longer than (our current family members) have at this point.”

Owner Steve McDonald recalled growing up with Palmer, when the funeral home used to be on the corner of Williams and Rester Street.

“I was just a little boy, coming into the funeral home to see my father and grandfather. Mary has always been part of the business. Our kids came to work with us before they went to preschool. They would go and visit Mary and the other ladies who worked with her,” Steve McDonald said. “She has been a positive factor in their lives and wonderful employee over these 53 years. We have been blessed to have Mary, her husband and other family members working with us.”

Steve McDonald said that Palmer has always worked hard and has never taken unscheduled days off. She has been a constant presence and everyone knew they could count on her to be there.

“People would come in to pay their premiums and knew that Mary would be there to take it and visit with them. She has been a consistent friendly face and an asset to our business. The customers have looked forward to seeing her as much as she has looked forward to seeing them,” Steve McDonald said.

This dependable, engaging, competent personality exemplifies her presence within the company and community throughout the years.

Her sister, Jerry LaMonte, called in to the Item to say how Palmer defies her years and maintains her vitality and wit, regardless of the circumstance.

“She is really special,” LaMonte said. “I think Mary could be an inspiration for people who sit around and think their life is over. She has more drive than most and loves being around people. She faithfully attends her church and Sunday School class when she is not wrapped up in her family.”

Mary Palmer has shared her home life and professional life with her spouse, Ray C. Palmer Sr., for 61 years. They have worked together at McDonald Funeral Home for the last 50 years.

Palmer has lived in Picayune, with the exception of a brief period in New Orleans, La., after graduating from Pearl River Junior College.

“We returned to Picayune to raise our children. The city was no place for a child to grow up,” she said. “Our youngest was one-year-old when I applied at the Funeral Home Insurance company. We were able to raise our children Penny and Rocky as well as our foster son, Whitney.

“But I also count the McDonald children as my own. I can truthfully say that the McDonalds are wonderful people and very much like my family.  I have seen the children grow up and they are like my own grandchildren. They are just really sweet,” she said.

When asked how it has felt to work with her husband for 50 years and at the same company for 53 years, she said, “I think it has made the bond between my husband and myself stronger. I find it very comforting to work with the people I have grown up with and have watched grow up. I love my people who come in and other agents who I work with on the phone. We are like a family and it makes me feel good to help them.”

Palmer is truly something to see in action when she is working on insurance. She will rattle off numbers and policies at a speed that will amaze you.

Sure, there are inspirational books to be read and trips to be taken more frequently.

The Palmers have traveled to Hawaii, Mexico and throughout the United States. But it appears that for now she will continue to do what she does extremely well.

“I know that one day the time will come when I will no longer be able to work, but that time is not now,” she said.

“Miss Mary lives for her work and that is what drives her. She has discussed a day coming when she will no longer work but we can’t see that coming anytime soon. Work keeps her going and she keeps us going. We really appreciate her,” Ann McDonald said.