Wife of Ex-Senate Chaplain Ogilvie Dies in Calif.

Posted April 2, 2003 at 5:54pm

Senators and staffers are mourning the death this week of Mary Jane Ogilvie, the wife of recently retired Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie. She died Tuesday in California after a lengthy illness.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a close friend and neighbor of the Ogilvies when the couple lived in Washington, described Ogilvie as an “extremely outgoing” person who was a “delight to be with” and a fighter until the very end.

“She was a tiny person and I’m sure that part of that was that for some years she had a diminished lung capacity,” Sessions said. “But she was, although tiny, a courageous and strong person. I’ve heard more people comment about her strength, and her will to live was very strong.”

Ogilvie, whose age was unavailable, had survived a difficult battle with cancer more than 20 years ago that included six major surgeries — inspiring her to help other women deal with the trauma of cancer and cancer treatment.

More recently, she had been felled by serious health problems, including a seven-month battle with pneumonia that left her on a ventilator.

She was transferred to an acute care facility in Los Angeles in mid-October and after commuting between Washington and Los Angeles for several months, Ogilvie stepped down from his post in March to tend to his wife.

“I know how frustrating it must have been for her with her strong will to live and her fighting spirit to just not really be able to come back, and be able to breathe normally,” Sessions said, remembering how Ogilvie would rest many times as she descended the stairs in the complex where they all lived.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) described Mary Jane Ogilvie as “a warm, wonderful woman, well known for her volunteer work on behalf of those suffering or recovering from cancer.”

“She was a friend and confidant to many Senators, their spouses and staff and was a source of great inspiration to Dr. Ogilvie, as he served as a daily source of inspiration for the Senate,” Frist said. “We trust that in his time of grief Dr. Ogilvie’s faith in God and his friends here in the U.S. Senate will serve as sources of comfort and support.”

A 1997 article in a Point Loma Nazarene College publication described Mary Jane Ogilvie as a “soft-spoken elegant woman with a warm and ready smile” who generally preferred to stay out of the limelight.

“She has never felt it was her task to be the assistant pastor,” Ogilvie was quoted as saying in the article. “She always explains that she is a Christian who happens to be married to a clergyman, rather than, ‘I am a clergyman’s wife.’”

Sessions smiled at that description, saying it captured an engaging woman who had a unique way of saying exactly what was on her mind.

“She was quite outspoken how she felt about things, but in a way that never offended because you knew it was just how she felt about things,” Sessions said. “I thought she was an extraordinary person.”

In addition to her husband, Mary Jane Ogilvie is survived by three children — Heather, Scott and Andrew — and four grandchildren.