Mary Katharine “Mary Kay” (Downs) Derck passed away on October 23, 2021 after a long battle with systemic scleroderma, an extremely rare autoimmune disease. Mary was born at home in Metamora, MI to Bertha van Eldik Downs and Robert Carlin Downs on September 28, 1942. She attended Lapeer Community Schools from 2nd grade until she graduated in 1960. She attended Flint Jr. College, Central Michigan University, and graduated magna cum laude from Oakland University in 1969. She taught school for two years in Lapeer and then spent 30-plus years with the Michigan Employment Security Commission in Lapeer. Most of her years there were as the Veterans Employment Representative, a job she said had the best clients in the world. In 2002 she was nominated by the U.S. Veterans Director to be considered for the National Local Veterans Representative of the Year honor, and was given this award by the U.S. Secretary of Labor in Washington in November 2002. She retired from state service in 2002. Mary loved to read and in later years before she became ill, she enjoyed bike riding on the various trails. She was very active in her union, Service Employees International Union Local 31-M, serving as a steward, chief steward, and a vice president as well as a member of the bargaining team and the Labor Management Health Care Committee for many years.

Mary is survived by her longtime companion, Jan Silk; her nieces, Kathi Downs and Cheri Downs Nelles; Kathy and Dennis Hillman and family; Norm Silk and Dale Morgan. Her dear friends David and Linda Hamilton; and great longtime friends Sue Coughlin and Janice Ashmore. Mary will always be indebted to Janice for her love, patience and devotion in taking her to Ann Arbor to Uof M Hospital for chemotherapy once a month for a year in order to try to control the autoimmune disease she battled for nine years.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, November 5 at Young Funeral Home, located at 4061 St. Clair Hwy. China, MI 48054. The family will receive visitors one hour prior to the service. Inurnment will take place at Hillside Cemetery, St. Clair.

Any remembrances may be made to the Blue Water Humane Society at 6266 Lapeer Rd., North Street, MI 48049.

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