Mary Louise Sprague
09/05/1917 - 05/19/2012


Mary Louise Sprague, lately of Short Hills, NJ, died peacefully at home on May 19 of natural causes after a slow decline. She did not disclose her age.


Mary Louise, as she preferred to be known, lived a long and rich life. Born in South Orange, NJ, she grew up in Maplewood the only child of her beloved parents, Charles E. and Kathryn B. Dull, both of Ohio. Her father was a senior teacher in the Newark school system and author of the first chemistry and physics textbooks exclusively dedicated to high school teaching, whose titles, Modern Chemistry and Modern Physics, remain in wide use today. Her mother was an actress and monologuist, performing as soloist and in amateur stock companies and on radio throughout the northeast. Both her parents died before her 30th birthday.


Mary Louise graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ, Oberlin College, and Columbia University with a Masters degree in English.


She married an Oberlin classmate, Wallace A. Sprague, in 1942. Mr. Sprague was a commissioned U.S. Naval officer serving at the time in Seattle and later in London as a liaison officer to the British counter-intelligence service. He died in 1998.


Soon after the war, Mary Louise and Wallace moved to Short Hills, NJ, where they built a Gropius-style house, radical at the time in a conservative suburb.


Mary Louise devoted herself to raising her two sons until they went off to college, when she acquired the local township newspaper. For the next 18 years, she was an active publisher and editorial writer on township and State matters. Thoughtful, practical, and with high intellectual integrity, she brought the paper to great influence, losing a few friends in the process but gaining the respect of all. She also served as an officer of the New Jersey Press Association and became an influential friend of, and counselor to, many local and State elected officials.


She shared deep and broad intellectual interests and sympathies with her husband, brought together, as they were, by a lifelong love of reading—newspapers and books. The town library will note her absence.


While a woman of fundamentally conservative values, she was also direct, often provocative and sometimes witheringly sarcastic. A moderate Republican, she was a life-long believer in women’s rights, and though no pacifist, she was an early, outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, not a comfortable position at suburban cocktail parties in the early 1960’s. She would never have characterized herself as a trail-blazer, but in her modern views and willingness to express them, in a small way she was. Her personality was a conflict between romantic intellectual and clear-headed pragmatist.


Mary Louise had many friends, but with no close living relatives, she was devoted, above all, to her husband and two sons, Charles W. Sprague of River Hills, WI, and John A. Sprague of New York City, who survive her. No mother was ever more loving. She also took delight in her two daughters-in-law, Mary Hamilton Sprague and Dorothy Whitmarsh Sprague, and in her three granddaughters: Martha Hamilton Sprague of Washington, DC; Catherine Ward Sprague of Belmont, MA; and Dorothy Louise Sprague of Atlanta.


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