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Mary Carroll Shemo, MD

Born: Fri., Feb. 3, 1950
Died: Sun., Jul. 3, 2016

Memorial Mass

1:00 PM Sat., Jul. 23, 2016
Location: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church

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Mary Carroll Shemo, MD

     Mary Carroll Shemo, M.D., DLFAPA, died on Sunday, July 3, 2016, at 5:20 p.m. from a glioblastoma multiform (malignant brain tumor) found on February 7, 2013. She underwent extensive treatment with neurosurgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and survived for far longer than was expected, a testament to the strong spirit that everyone who knew her experienced. Though she did endure progressive neurological deficits, it was clear to all involved in her care that the essence of Mary endured – her strength, her kindness, her keen intellect, her spirituality, and her unfailing humor.

     Mary was born in Washington, D.C. on February 3, 1950. Her father, Charles Carroll, served in both the Navy and Air Force to the rank of Colonel. He had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from Georgetown University. He worked in military intelligence for many years; at one point he was the Chief of Technical Intelligence for the Navy Chief of Staff. Mary’s mother, Amelia Fisher, had a degree in chemistry. Mary was in a sibship of eight, including an adopted sister Linda, who was a maternal cousin whose mother died suddenly at a young age, as then also occurred with Linda.

      Mary grew up in a military family which moved frequently. She was, however, especially shaped by her childhood time on a farm in Pennsylvania, as well as her early adolescence in Pacific Palisades, California, where she literally lived down the street from Ronald Reagan.

     Mary attended Wheeling Jesuit College where she majored in biology with minors in philosophy and theology. She graduated as valedictorian of her class and was a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the National Honor Society of Jesuit colleges and universities. While there she met her husband, John, in 1969. They married on May 20, 1972. Also in 1972 Mary entered medical school at West Virginia University where John was already enrolled. In medical school she was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the National Medical Honor Society, in her third year, the earliest career point of eligibility. She completed her psychiatric residency in 1979, and then was recruited by the University of Virginia where she became Director of the University of Virginia Student Health Service Psychiatric Division. After several years in this position, she entered private practice.

      In addition to her clinical and academic roles, Mary served in multiple positions on the Psychiatric Society of Virginia Board of Directors. She was asked on three occasions to run for the office of President of the PSV, unopposed, but persistently declined as she simply did not like to “run meetings.”  She did serve for three years as a member of the steering committee for the American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines. In her practice she was extensively involved with an integrated biopsychosocial medical model of treatment, while also engaging as principal investigator in a broad array of research studies. Mary has been elevated to the position of Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the highest level an APA member can obtain.

     Mary and John have two daughters and two sons-in-law, Bryna Carroll Pfaffenberger and her husband, Michael, and Cordelia Palmer Wolf and her husband, Josiah. Mary and John have been extremely grateful that both these daughters and their husbands have been able to find ways to relocate back to Charlottesville during Mary’s illness. Their presence and support has been a true blessing. 

     Mary had, even in her college days, always had a keen interest in natural cures and the therapeutic benefit of botanicals, long before this was “trendy.”  On scuba trips through the Caribbean she would arrange excursions with the resident biologist on various islands to learn about the native plants and their uses. She would have fascinating discussions connecting their botanicals with ours.

Mary has always been a highly spiritual person. She was raised Catholic and always had a very positive experience of this: that salvation is not by “faith alone” or that one must “avoid sin.”  Rather, she held the religious perspective that we are expected to actively be committed to finding ways to do good, that the ultimate message of the Bible comes down to one commandment: “That which you do unto these the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”

     Mary is a descendant of Charles Carroll of Carrolton, the only Catholic and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. He reportedly added “of Carrolton” to his signature so King George would know where to find him. As is true of most Americans here for three generations or more, Mary is of mixed ethnicity including Irish, German, and Native American.

     Mary’s interests and skills were extensive. She was always reading three or four books on an extensive array of subjects. She sang and danced, including choral and ballet, while also being skilled in Zen Judo. She went on long portage trips in Canada, skied and had master’s certification in scuba diving. She drew, painted, sculpted, and wrote poetry. She was a magnificent cook, designed and crafted beautiful clothes and jewelry, and had a truly magical touch with plants. She was a remarkably caring and skillful physician and, most importantly, she nurtured and encouraged two wonderful daughters. She likewise took her role of being a godmother very seriously and has maintained very close relationships with her godchildren.

     Mary is survived by her husband of 44 years, John Palmer David Shemo, M.D., DLFAPA, and her two daughters and their husbands, as referenced above. She is also survived by her siblings, Eric, Martha, Alan, Claire, Barbara, and Elizabeth. An adopted sister, Linda, who was the daughter of a maternal aunt who died at age 26, died herself at age 40. She is also survived by very special godchildren, Eric Carroll, M.D., and Lauren, Nathan, and Christopher Mott.

     The family wishes to acknowledge the healthcare team who helped Mary through this long journey, including David Shiff, M.D., James Larner, M.D., and Andrew Wolf, M.D., and their clinical associates at UVA. They also express gratitude to those who helped keep Mary in her home for almost three and a half years, including Selita Hester, Margay Featherston, and Fran Ingram. We likewise thank Kristen Heinan, M.D., Jeannie Scanlan, and Father Stephen Alcott, O.P. who visited from church and brought Mary communion and prayed with her. Father Stephen also administered last rites to Mary. We thank Hospice of the Piedmont for their kind assistance in Mary’s last days. We are also so grateful for the kindness of the staff at Psychiatric Alliance of the Blue Ridge, Mary’s clinical practice, including Anne Candella, Ann Patterson, Linda Terry, Angel Morris, RN., and Hillary Pascall, R.N.

     Finally acknowledged are Mary’s many friends, colleagues and patients who gave such kind support. Her array of friends includes Ellen, Carter and Nicholas Elliott, Paul and Cindy Mott and their three delightful children, and Drs. Barbara and Tom Ingersoll – dear friends and kindred spirits of over 40 years.

     A memorial mass will be held for Mary at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Saturday, July 23, 2016, at 1 p.m., with a reception to follow. All who knew and loved Mary are welcome.

At her request, her brain is being donated for teaching purposes to the UVA Department of Neuro-oncology and her remains will be cremated. Memorial contributions may be made in her memory to the American Psychiatric Association Foundation to support advocacy for those with disabling psychiatric illness. (online: www.apafdn.org; phone: 703-907-8112).

     Thacker Brothers Scottsville Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Family and friends may share memories and photos at www.thackerbrothers.com.


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Condolence Booklet

Linda and Tom Terry
   Posted Fri July 08, 2016
Mary was a beautiful person both inside and out. She was very compassionate to her patient's needs. She loved her family and was always kind to her clinical staff. She will surely be missed but will continue to live on in the hearts of those who knew her. We send our deepest condolences to her family during their time of grief.

Richard F Mercier
   Posted Fri July 08, 2016
John & the Shemo Family,
Read in the Charlottesville Daily Progress that Mary Carroll, Class of 1972 at Wheeling Jesuit University, formerly known as Wheeling College, who married John Shemo of the Class of 1970 from Charleston, W.Va., has recently passed after a prolonged fight against a malignant tumor. It is with great sadness hearing that such a special classmate has passed, and although I did not know her, I found her picture in our Class of 1970 yearbook with her counterparts from the 1972 Class. She is now at peace with God.
Rick Mercier, Wheeling Jesuit University, Class of 1970, &
Dr. Mary Ann Mercier, Phd., Keswick, Virginia

Frank Poplaski Class of 70
   Posted Fri July 08, 2016
We didn't know each other well, but as a classmate I want to past on to you my deepest condolences. Mary was far to young and beautiful to pass. She will always be in your heart and thoughts which will give you strength and happiness.

Best regards,
Frank Poplaski

Belinda Morris
   Posted Fri July 08, 2016
Upon hearing about Mary's passing I was conflicted in that I both felt profoundly sad and had fond memories about her. I spent hundreds of hours with her and was privileged to be the recipient of her kindness over and over. Just one example is that when I was unemployed she loaded my car with food so I could eat; I can't imagine anyone else doing that for me, but it was no surprise when she did it. She told me all about her vacations scuba diving, and proudly spoke about her daughters. She was more a friend than my doctor, although -- like everything she did -- she treated me with skill and love. I think of her often, and I will forever miss her, but I will fondly cherish my memories. My heartfelt condolences to John, her daughters and sons-in-law, and the staff at PABR.


Denise Kirchner
   Posted Sat July 09, 2016
John and family, it was with sadness I read Mary's obituary this morning. In those years of association with her at Charter I was always impressed with her intellect and advocacy for patient care. She always was seeking the next level in standards of care. But, I was also impressed with her authenticity and humanity. Despite her obvious academic achievements, she was simply a lovely person. I'll always remember the humor of watching her trying to get John to dance at a Christmas party. As her contemporary, her death at such a young age is a reminder that we are not in control of how many days we have on this earth, just what we do with them. And Mary used her days to the fullest, an example for all of us. My heart goes out to your family who will feel this loss most, but I'm sure all who knew her will remember what a difference she made in their lives.

Sharon Joseph
   Posted Sun July 10, 2016
John and family,
I was so sorry to hear of Mary's death. She was so dynamic and inspiring. She was my roomate at Wheeling Jesuit and I will always remember her strength, kindness, and endurance. We had great times together. May God be with you especially at this time of great grief. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Paul and Arlene Clausell
   Posted Tue July 26, 2016
John and the Shemo family:
Today we received notice of Mary's untimely departure from this life on July 3rd. We fondly recall our relationships with you and Mary during our days in medical school and during our psychiatric residencies at WVU. You and your family have our deepest sympathy.
Paul Clausell, MD
Arlene Clausell, Ed.D

Kathleen Herring
   Posted Fri August 26, 2016
Good morning,

My condolences to Dr. Shemo's family. I was wondering whether a family member might be willing to contact me to confirm details for an "In Memoriam" posting for the UVA alumni magazine's upcoming issue. I can be reached at kherring@virginia.edu if you wish to contribute or to see the draft of what I have written. Thank you, and best wishes in this difficult time.

Kathleen Herring
Editorial Assistant
Virginia Magazine

Margie L. Coleman
   Posted Thu December 27, 2018
I am saddened to read of Dr. Shemo's passing. I had the pleasure of working with both Mary and John while with Charter Hospital of Charlottesville. The world was blessed to have her in it and all who knew her were blessed to have that relationship.

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