We want to know why we exist. We want to know the answer to the questions of from whence we came and to where we go. We do not know but we keep searching anyway. Perhaps we come close to it when we are creating something of lasting beauty. Cannot we all be eternal?
– Mary Henry 1913-2009
March 19, 1913 Mary Marguerite Dill was born in Sonoma, California.
Her parents, Eugene and Lucy, were descended from small farmers who came west after the Civil War in search of better opportunities. (Neither had any background or talent in the arts—nor did Mary's older and younger brothers, Melvin and Tom.) Soon after Mary's birth, the Dills moved to rural Calistoga County, California, where for a time Eugene owned and worked a small mercury mine. One of Mary's earliest memories, from those days, was of her father going out every morning with his rifle to clear the ground around their cabin home of rattlesnakes so that the children could play outside.
1928 The family moved from Calistoga to Los Altos Hills.
Eugene became foreman of the Shumate fruit ranch, and Mary entered Palo Alto's prestigious high school, driving herself to school in a truck—there was no school bus in those days. She had always enjoyed drawing; now she encountered a perceptive art teacher who recognized her talent and provided special opportunities for her two star pupils, Mary and Riyo Sayo (a lifelong friend). Though shy and self-conscious, Mary was already acquiring a strong sense of self-direction. She decided to follow her teacher's suggestion that she go on to art school, and although her parents had no money to help her get there, they never discouraged her from doing what she wanted.
Los Altos HIlls
1938 Mary received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California. She worked intermittently as a maid in private homes and at Camp Curry in Yosemite National Park to pay her college tuition during those Depression years.