Obituary of Mary Moore Plane
Mary Moore Plane passed away peacefully in the afternoon of September 14, after a short illness. A resident of La Vida Llena Life Plan Retirement Community in Albuquerque for the last decade, and a resident of Albuquerque for 19 years before that, Plane lived a full and active life, filled with friends, family, hard work and unflagging service to others. She was an innovator, a mentor to other women, an entrepreneur, and a steadfast contributor to the many communities she touched, including Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and Clarkson University (Potsdam, New York). She co-founded and ran Plane’s Cayuga Vineyards in 1972 with her husband, an associated winery of the same name in 1980, and individually conceived and, in 1981, co-founded the Cayuga Wine Trail of the Finger Lakes Region, joining Plane’s winery with four other wineries to form a thriving association to promote tourism in the region.
Mary was the last child of three born to Thomas Turner Moore and his wife, Lola Morton Moore, in Charleston, Illinois. Her dad was a grocer, and some of her earliest and most enduring childhood memories centered on the family store. She learned to drive at age 11, mostly so she could help with home deliveries of groceries. Driving, especially long distance, remained a pleasure for her. Her parents offered her a loving but no-nonsense upbringing, emphasizing ethical behavior, community involvement, and a strong work ethic. Her father was known for his generosity, especially to farm families of the surrounding area during the Great Depression and in the years of food rationing during World War II. He was a veteran of World War I and remained involved throughout his life with the American Legion. Mary’s mother was herself a pioneer, having graduated Warrensburg Normal School (teacher’s college) in Missouri and then completing her BA in education at Columbia University in New York City, before studying at Cornell University’s School of Domestic Science (Home Economics) and returning to the Midwest to direct a residence hall and teach at Eastern Illinois University.
Mary graduated from Cottey College, a two-year women’s college in Nevada, Missouri, in 1946, remaining a very active alumna. She completed her BA at University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign, in 1947. Mary earned a Master’s degree at Syracuse University in Student Personnel Administration, and then served briefly as a residence hall director at the University of Minnesota before moving to Ithaca, New York. There she took up a position in the Willard Straight Hall Student Union at Cornell University, living with her close friend, Mary Ann Coghill, for 12 years. Mary Ann remained a part of Mary’s family until her own death in 1992. In Ithaca, Mary served in the Dean of Students’ office until her retirement in 1963 as Program Director, on the occasion of her marriage. Her husband Robert was a widower, a professor of Chemistry at Cornell, and later University Provost. Mary gained two step-children, then very young, and quickly added two more children to the family. When her husband took the position of President of Clarkson University in 1974, Mary stepped gracefully into the role of President’s wife, and the pair formed a perfectly aligned husband and wife team to carry out a successful financial, academic and institutional expansion of the small college. Clarkson became a university during their time there. Long interested in K-12 education through her involvement as a parent volunteer, Mary advocated for the formation of the Clarkson School, a combined 12th grade/Freshman year program developed at the university that drew exceptionally talented students to the campus. For this, and all her other service, Clarkson awarded her an honorary Ph.D. in the Humanities in 1985. Her achievements in support of the Clarkson mission were all the more remarkable for the fact that she accomplished them while simultaneously developing a vineyard and farm winery, near Ovid, New York, in the state’s Finger Lakes region. Mary attended New York State Agricultural Extension classes to learn the practical aspects of planting and growing grapes; usually she was the only woman. She and her husband were among the first winery owners to plant vinifera grapes, which previously had not been commercially grown in upstate New York. As the vineyard became more established, the Planes participated in research at Cornell’s nearby Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, on new hybrid varieties that might tolerate the region’s cold winters better than pure European varietals.
Mary retained primary responsibility for vineyard operations. As the first female vineyard and farm winery owner/manager in the region, she mentored other women, providing invaluable support as these competitors got their enterprises off the ground. She saw, correctly, that all the fledgling enterprises would benefit if they banded together. To that end, in 1981, she developed and promoted the Cayuga Wine Trail, the first such wine-focused business association in the nation . The Trail is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023 and is still going strong. During these years Mary often stayed alone on the farm for many days at a time, and then she would drive the 200 miles back to Potsdam, so as to be able to host a college Trustees meeting, a parents’ weekend event, or graduation celebrations. She had a genius for organizing parties and celebrations. She always strove to ensure that everyone felt welcomed and comfortable, no matter their standing or role within the academic community. She reprised this role, when her husband came out of retirement to head Wells College, in Aurora, New York, just across Cayuga Lake from their winery, from 1991 to 1995. Once again she traveled together with her husband as they called on alumni and supporters, continuing the skillful fundraising first honed at Clarkson. When her husband retired from Wells, the decision was made to sell the vineyard/ winery and relocate to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There Mary and Bob began active lives as volunteers, mostly in enterprises addressing poverty. They worked at two different food distribution centers, and also volunteered as staff at the thrift store of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral. During these years they played a very active role in the lives of their grandchildren, especially the two who lived in Albuquerque. In 2012 they moved into the La Vida Llena Life Plan Retirement Community. There, the couple founded a twice-monthly Wine Roundtable event, with the goal of increasing positive, informal community interactions. As was characteristic for her, Mary also put a special emphasis on welcoming newcomers, extending an individual invitation to each new resident in the community, and inviting them to enjoy a glass of wine, some new friends, and good conversation. After her husband’s death in 2018, Mary continued to volunteer, coordinating a group to escort wheelchair-bound residents in the Healthcare wing to chapel services every Sunday, as well as organizing a popular chair yoga class over zoom during the pandemic. Even as her own disability advanced and she lost most of her eyesight, Mary continued to connect with her community in every way possible.
Mary is survived by her four children: David (Katherine Jacobs), Martha (Javier Vela), Ann Marie (Adam Liff), and Jennifer; nine grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren; she was preceded in death by her husband of 55 years (Robert) and two of her grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at La Vida Llena Life Plan Community in Albuquerque at 2:00 pm on December 9, 2023. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Full Life Foundation, 10501 Lagrima de Oro Rd, NE, Ste 361, Albuquerque, NM 87111; or Roadrunner Food Bank, 5840 Office Blvd, NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109. A family-only interment of ashes will be held at the Mound Cemetery in Charleston, Illinois, in spring 2024.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary Plane, please visit Tribute Store