Mary L. Hegnauer


Mary Lee Hegnauer (née Hayles) passed away peacefully at her farm, April 28, 2022.

Mary was born February 17, 1943, in Alton, IL, a town along the Mississippi River, and lived much of her life not far from that river in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. She grew up in Rochester, MN, making lifelong friends and graduating from John Marshall High School in 1961, then attending the University of Minnesota where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1965. She taught at a rural school before returning to the Twin Cities to begin her social work career in child protection care for Hennepin County.

She married Keith Hegnauer, May 18, 1973, and they purchased an old farm in Trempealeau County, where they raised their three daughters. She also worked at Mississippi River Human Services Center and later for the Tri-County Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home where she served as the director of social services until her retirement in 2002.

Mary Lee lived her belief that all politics begin at the local level. She worked diligently for the Trempealeau Democratic Party. She fought sand frac mining and took an active role in Preserve Trempealeau County and various political campaigns over the years. She was also a Girl Scout leader, an avid reader and book club member, a faithful participant in a Tai Chi class, and a proud supporter of Wisconsin Public Television and Radio. Mary Lee cared about people and with her husband earned the trust and respect of their rural community.

Mary Lee made close friends wherever she went. She was admired for her empathy, insight, generosity, loyalty, and humor—as well as for her homemade bread. She loved music and could sing along to every Elvis Presley and Ella Fitzgerald tune. No one could brighten a dance floor more than Mary Lee.

She is survived by three daughters: Celeste Jouanet (John), Josephine Cambambia (Rogelio) and Marilee Allsep; as well as six grandchildren: Madeline, Philip, Olivia, Idalia, Sol, and Evelyn; one sister, Marsha Schieber (Marc); many nieces and nephews; her beloved Uncle Ray; cousins; and several close in-laws—all of whom loved Mary Lee dearly and benefitted from her goodness of spirit and her commitment to making the world a better place.

She was preceded in death by Keith Hegnauer, her husband of forty-one years; two sisters: Martha and Marjorie Hayles; her parents, Alvin B. and Marilee Hayles; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.

A memorial service will be planned for a future date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Wisconsin Public Radio & Television, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, the Trempealeau Democratic Party, or to a charity supporting your own local community.

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