Mary Elizabeth Baker Stuart, 91, passed away Friday, January 13, 2023, at her home in Abingdon, Virginia.
Mary was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, to the late Congressman Howard H. Baker and Dora Ladd Baker. After her mother died when she was two years old, her father then married Irene Bailey, and they raised her in Huntsville, Tennessee. Upon her graduation from Washington Seminary School (now Westminster School) in Atlanta, Georgia, she attended the University of Tennessee. When her father was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, she moved to Washington, D.C. with her parents, graduating from the National School of Art in Washington. She was Miss Tennessee in the 1951 National Cherry Blossom Festival, and she enjoyed a career as a professional model.
In 1953 Mary married Congressman William C. Wampler, and in 1956, they moved to Bristol. She was a member of the Border Guild of Bristol (now the Junior League), the Child Study Club, and the Hill and Dale Garden Club. An avid supporter of the arts, Mary’s Border Guild responsibility was the creation of the Vaten School of Crafts, whose funds were eventually passed along to the William King Museum of Arts in Abingdon. She was a member and taught Sunday School at Central Presbyterian Church. As a Congressional wife, she was very active in the Ninth District Republican Party and later as a campaigner for her son William when he ran for Virginia State Senate. She was honored to be a member of the Number One International Neighbors Club, a group of prominent Congressional and diplomatic wives.
In 1977, she married the late G.R.C. Stuart and moved to Abingdon, Virginia, where she served on the founding board of the William King Museum of Art and the board of White’s Mill. Mary was also a member of the Washington County Historical Society where she chaired tours of historic homes over many years. Known for her gracious hospitality, Mary hosted countless parties and house and garden tours at the antebellum Preston/Stuart family home, “The Bank.”
Mary loved to play golf and tennis (she was a charter member of Bristol’s “Tennessee Fats” tennis group), and she enjoyed playing bridge and mah jongg, arranging flowers, and maintaining her rose, flower, and vegetable gardens. She also loved traveling the world with her husband Rogers. She was an active member of Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church in Abingdon.
Predeceased by her parents, her husband G.R.C. Stuart, and her brother, United States Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., she is survived by her daughter Barbara Wampler Walling and husband Challen and her son William C. Wampler, Jr. and wife Mary, all of Bristol, Virginia. Her surviving stepdaughters are Lane Stuart Trexler and husband Gary of Port Orange, Florida, and Ellen Stuart Dixon and husband Tad of Asheville, North Carolina.
She also leaves behind her grandchildren Ginny Harr Webb and husband Wesley and Betsy Harr Akins and husband James, all of Nashville, Tennessee; Mary Katherine Wampler Charles and husband Ray of Tampa, Florida; Delegate William C. Wampler III of Abingdon; and step-grandchildren Temple Dixon and Carter Dixon of Asheville. Mary was very proud of her great-grandchildren Annie, Sadie, Ellie, Walker, Lilly, and Babs. Survivors also include her sister Beverly Baker Patestides of Leesburg, Florida, and sister-in-law United States Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker of Burdick, Kansas. Other survivors include her nieces Cynthia Baker of McLean, Virginia; Michele Patestides of Inverness, Florida; and Genia Mary Patestides of Salem, Massachusetts; and nephew Darek Baker and wife Karen, of Brentwood, Tennessee.
A funeral will be held at Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church on Monday, January 16, 2023, at 2:00 P.M. with Reverend Kevin Campbell officiating. Burial will follow at Sinking Spring Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the church one hour prior to the service.
In lieu of flowers, it was Mary’s wish that you make a donation in her memory to Barter Theater, Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church, or William King Museum of Art.
Frost Funeral Home and Cremation Services is honored to serve the Stuart family.