Mary Phelps

A Celebration of Life for 85-year old Mary Phelps of Crawford, NE, will be held Friday, October 1, 2021 at 1:30 PM at the United Methodist Church in Crawford

Burial will be in the Crawford City Cemetery.

A memorial has been established the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department, Crawford United Methodist Church and Crawford Historical Museum. Donations may be sent in care of Chamberlain Chapel, PO Box 970, Chadron, NE 69337.

Online condolences may be left at

Chamberlain Chapel of Crawford, Nebraska is in charge of arrangements

Mary Elizabeth “Ibet” Spray Phelps born the 3rd child of Eldon Randall Spray and M. Elizabeth “Betty” Squires Spray on December 8th, 1935 on a very snowy day. She entered eternal rest on September 24, 2021 in Crawford.

Mary attended school in Crawford, graduating Salutatorian of the class of ’54. She went on to Kearney, NE, and Kearney State Teachers College, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

The friends made in high school and college remained through her life and she cherished each one. Reunions in Kearney in 2017 with her college and in Crawford in 2019 with her high school friends were important to her.

On August 25, 1956 Mary married Duane Kuhnel, a union to which 3 girls were born in Crawford: Marcella Sue, Darci Ann and Deana Kay. Son Chad Wayne followed after a move to Kearney in 1962. Mary was a mother who was involved with her children’s activities, including serving as a Camp Fire Girls leader and helping with 4-H groups.

Mary was a deputy in the Buffalo County Registrar of Deeds office for many years, then moved back to Crawford and her childhood home in 1985 after the children were grown. She became curator of the Crawford Historical Society museum and served on the Board of Directors at the Ponderosa Villa.

Mary’s faithful heavenly friend had a surprise for her when He put an old school acquaintance in her life. James Carl Phelps became her much adored husband on June 24, 1987. This marriage required a move to Derby, Kansas. for 10 years, but the couple returned to Crawford after Jim’s retirement in 1996.

Mary loved the Crawford and Fort Robinson area. She always was in awe of the beautiful scenery and felt very blessed to live here.

Mary supported the Post Playhouse by sharing her season tickets with others. She enjoyed bridge, her daily crossword puzzles, and sang in the Methodist church choir. She loved to golf, and she could write a poetic verse. She was fun, creative, and kind. She was a great listener and willing to help with your problems.

Mary was a member of PEO and she enjoyed being a member of the Christopher Robinson Chapter DAR where she served as an office at the state level and presented the wreath on Memorial Day at the Crawford cemetery.

Mary is survived by her husband James, children Marcella (Ronnie) Thompson, Crawford , Darci Kuhnel, Kearney, Deana Murphy, Denver CO, Chad (Kris) Kuhnel, Granby CO, grandchildren, Shela, Alyssa (Jon), Paige (Rich), Sahar (Mat), Emma (Mario), Seamus, Sage (Makayla), Chloe, Ben and Abby and 10 great grandchildren.

She is also survived by her sister Sue Ann Hankins, Kearney nieces Holly Hankins and Samantha (Scott) Leibhart, and the many bonus children Mary loved to include Theresa Hudson and special friend Helga Smith.

Mary was preceded in death by her parents, brother John, aunt Carolyn “Opal” Sammons, uncle Charles “Chili” Spray Jr., great-grand daughter, and cousin Don Spray.

In Mary’s years of declining health she has been blessed with angels that cared for her, loved her, read to her, and just shared her love. Mary’s angels were Jeanie I, Kay, Jeanie II, Teresa, Kelly, Jessica, Jade, Kat, Angie, and others.

Mary’s family is very grateful for the Chadron Community Home Health and Hospice staff and especially Sara, Tama, Patty and Russ who have been there to comfort the family.

Mary wrote “To be blessed with so much is the very essence of my life and I want you to know that our Lord awaits for each of us, no matter how much we may wander. He uses His strength to guide our lives through life and He is always constant.

You have each touched my life in some ways and now I will say thank you, dear friends. Enrich your life in His love and give without the thought of what’s going to be returned by Him.

God Bless You! Take care of each other and love one another as He has given you beautiful thoughts to put into action for Him. I dearly love you – each one and know we will meet again”