Mary Wright ’52 Van Zyl

Mary Jane (“Janie”) Van Zyl was born on August 14, 1929 to Nellie Beatrice Carpenter and James Arthur Wright in a farmhouse in Winterset, Iowa. On June 14, 2023 at the age of 93, Janie went home to be with her Lord and Savior and is now joyfully reunited with her husband and great love of fifty years, Gyte Van Zyl. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and her sister Betty Cummings of Anchorage, Alaska and her brother Arthur Wright of Des Moines, Iowa.

Janie met Gyte at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. After marriage, she worked as a secretary to help put Gyte through law school at Stanford. They moved to Los Angeles where they raised their two daughters Jane (Paul) Clark and Leslie (Douglas) McMurry. While Gyte was practicing law, Janie went back to college and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master’s Degree from California State University, Northridge. She then taught school for a few years and was much loved by her students.

Janie and Gyte were inseparable for fifty years. They were active members of their church, loved singing together in the Kathryn Kuhlman Choir, took Spanish and horseback riding lessons, went on many camping trips throughout California, and embarked on countless fishing trips. After Gyte retired, they built a lovely house together on the hills overlooking the ocean in Cambria, California. They loved visiting their vacation bungalow on the Gulf, near Loreto in Baja, California where Janie and Gyte rode pangas over the warm water and dug for clams. Years later, they moved to Oceanside, California where they were avid golfers and RVers. Janie loved making friends wherever they went.

Some years after Gyte died, Janie moved to Utah to help her eldest daughter and to bask in the joy of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was a loving mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She was thrilled to be able to be surrounded by Jane’s children: Byron (Annie) Clark, Rebekah (Christopher) Orton, Jeffrey (Jamie) Clark, Nicole (Jeffrey) Hale, Cameron (Britt) Clark, Jacqueline (Scotty) Fleming, and her great grandchildren, Benjamin, Melissa, Emily, Matthew, Eliza, Moira, Clark, Jane, Gyte, Blain, Evan, Abigail, Penny, Becker, Rowen, Annabelle, and August. She was also so happy to spend time in California with Leslie’s step-son Benjamin McMurray. She touched all of their lives with her cheerfulness, her warmth, her love and her humor. She was always eager to join in any games and activities, especially when the children were there. One of her granddaughters even got Janie to take a helicopter ride and zip-line in Hawaii in her eighties.

Janie loved the Lord, studied her scriptures daily and stored up those treasures in her heart. She loved her fellow human beings, and was ever curious and inquisitive about everything. She believed in the best in everyone she met. As one of her daughters was wont to say often, “mom could make friends on a pirate ship!” She always wanted to, and did, help others in any way she could.

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