Mary Ella Daily Bounds was born on November 30
, 1925, in a railroad town called Purcell, the “heart of Oklahoma”. She went to sleep for the last time on April 27
, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona, her home for over 60 years; Mary Ella’s exit from this world was peaceful.
Mary Ella’s parents, Thomas Jefferson Daily and Bertha Mae Dockery Daily, were sharecroppers until, like many other families, they were driven west by the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Mary Ella, the eldest of the Dailys’ four children, attended high school in Madera, California where she wrote an award-winning essay titled “I Am an American” in response to the hostility directed at transient farm workers by native Californians. Decades later, her children and grandchildren knew that one sure way to get dismissed from Mary Ella’s dinner table or sent outside was to say the word “Okie”.
A boy Mary Ella knew in Oklahoma followed her family to California, and in 1943, she married him. O.J. Bounds was 19 and she was nearly 17 when her parents accompanied them to the courthouse to give consent to the marriage.
O.J. and Mary Ella moved back to Oklahoma, then again to California, and finally to Phoenix, Arizona. They raised six daughters along the way. It is unlikely Mary Ella would describe herself as a feminist, but as early as the 1950’s, she was the primary breadwinner for the family. She worked as a telephone operator early in her marriage, and eventually became a manager at Mountain Bell in Phoenix—a successful career that lasted over thirty years.
Mary Ella was a reader, a worker of puzzles, a news hawk, and a Suns fan. She was as content in the thick of a good novel as she was yelling at the screen when her team was down by two (which happened a lot—sorry, Suns fans). She was an excellent cook, and her children and grandchildren are not sure if the fare from her table was comforting because she made it or because she made it so good. If you were lucky enough to receive notes or letters from Mary Ella, you know she was also a good writer—concise, funny, and tough if she needed to be.
Mary Ella’s children and grandchildren have described her as “feisty” and “fierce”. And if you know anything of Mary Ella’s history, you know she had to be. The comfort Mary Ella gave her family did not come in the form of lullabies or bedtime stories, but in plenty to eat and hot baths and new pajamas, summer sandals and cowboy boots, a new outfit for a job interview, or a pair of earrings only because you looked twice at them. She didn’t often feel comfortable discussing matters of the heart, but if someone broke yours, they’d better always be looking over their shoulder, because she would come for them.
She was an equal-opportunity champion or scold or listening ear—whichever the situation called for. No one was safe from her corrections, just as no one was denied her hospitality or forgiveness.
Like most of us, Mary Ella was complicated. Only she knew what all her 97 years meant to her, what it all added up to. Only she knew how the ledger was balanced between regrets and triumphs. And she’s taking that insight with her.
But what we do know is that if you are reading this now, there is an awfully good chance that she loved you. And if she loved you, you know how that felt: steady, strong, sometimes quiet, always dependable and, like her, fierce.
Mary Ella is survived by her six daughters: Glenda Winsor (Patrick); Janice Swift (Larry); Cheryl Franco (Sixto); Phyllis Boswell (Jesse); Donna Beth Brandolino (John); and Mary Bounds. Her 24 grandchildren, 39 great-grandchildren, and 14 great-great children also mourn her. (Some of the latest additions did not have an opportunity to get to know their great-great grandmother, but we will fill them in.)
She is preceded in death by her husband, O.J. Bounds, her sons-in-law Larry Swift (Janice), Sixto Franco (Cheryl), and Jesse Boswell (Phyllis), her siblings Willie Hirter, Betty Kilcrease, and Tommy Daily, and by her parents, Thomas and Bertha Daily.
Join us in remembering Mary Ella Daily Bounds on Saturday, May 6
, at the LDS Chapel at 1115 E. Ray Road in Chandler, Arizona. There will be a Viewing at 9AM followed by family prayer, and Funeral Services will begin at 10AM.