Cover photo for Mary  Boland's Obituary
Mary  Boland Profile Photo

Mary Boland

d. June 24, 2012

Mary Catherine Gunning Boland, 91, of La Crosse passed away at her home surrounded by family on Sunday, June 24, 2012.  She was born August 4, 1920 in Tolono, Illinois, to Dennis Joseph and Agnes (Craig) Gunning.  After graduation from Tolono High School, Mary attended a year of post high school education in Syracuse,  New York.  She then completed nurses training at Mercy Hospital in Champaign, Illinois.   Mary enlisted in the U.S. Navy Nurse Reserves through the Red Cross and served in Dublin, Georgia from 1943-1946. 

She returned to the University of Illinois under the G.I. Bill where she met John Boland, a handsome former Navy officer who was studying for his Master’s degree.  They were married September 11, 1948 at St. Patrick’s Church, Tolono, Illinois.  John and Mary shared 63 years of marriage together.

Following the birth of their four children in Peoria, Illinois, they moved to La Crosse in 1957.  There Mary became active in local organizations serving as president of the La Crosse Catholic Nurses Association, as a member of the Western Wisconsin Health Planning Organization, and as an officer for the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.

Mary’s avocation was an avid interest in mineral and fossil collecting.  She was a founding member of the Coulee Rock Club in 1964 and of the Midwest Amateur Paleontology Society in 1977.  A self-taught paleontologist who was mentored by professors from the University of Iowa, she collected and attended regional federation conventions across the country.  She served as Wisconsin State Director and Chairman of Paleontology of the Midwest Federation and later became Chairperson of the American Federation.  Mary was inducted into the National Halls of Fame for Bulletin Editors and for Paleontology.  John and Mary’s mineral collection is displayed at the UW-La Crosse Crowley Hall.  Her fossils are at the University of Iowa. 

Mary was among the original members of the Roncalli Newman Parish and was active in supporting UW-La Crosse students.  She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother  and great-grandmother who shared her curiosity of the natural world, her generosity to others, and her deep and abiding faith with all she encountered. 

Survivors include her husband John, four children, John Boland Jr. (Dr. Susannah Lloyd), Patricia (Dennis) Solfest, Dennis (M. Ann Strasser) Boland, James Boland, a sister Margaret Ann Harsacky, and brother Anthony Gunning; five grandchildren, Erin and Beth Boland, Timothy and David Solfest, and Kimberly (Andres) Carillo.  She had two great-grandchildren,  Andres and Santiago Carrillo.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers, Edward, John Craig, Dennis James, Patrick, Thomas Andrew (Tim) and Vincent, and her sister Helen Ruth.

A funeral mass will be at 11:00 A.M. Thursday at Roncalli Newman Center, 1732 State St.,  La Crosse.  Father James Kurzynski will officiate.  Gravside services will be held Saturday, June 30th at 11:00 A.M. at St.Patrick’s Cemetery in Tolono,  Illinois.   Friends may call Wednesday from 4:30 to 7:00 P.M. with a 6:30 P.M. rosary, at Blaschke & Schneider Funeral Home, 1501 West Ave. S., and from 10:00 A.M. until services, Thursday, at the church.

The family would like to thank Drs. Jumonville and Driscoll, Gundersen Lutheran, and their Hospice staff for their compassionate care.  Memorials may be directed to Gundersen-Lutheran Foundation’s “Steppin’ Out in Pink” cancer fund.

Online condolences may be made at

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