Mary Lou Orndorff Obituary


There is a goodness deficit with the passing of Mary Lou on April 3. A dear and loyal friend to many, Mary Lou will be remembered by her family and friends with the deepest love. While our hearts are heavy with loss, we are also filled with gratitude for having basked in Mary Lou’s light and inspiration of a life well-lived.

Mary Lou was born on May 21, 1936 to Marian and Arthur Cascadden in Highland Park, Michigan. She graduated from St. Claire High School in 1954 then Evangelical Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing in 1957. Mary Lou had a diverse nursing career. She traveled extensively as a stewardess-nurse for the Northern Pacific Railway until moving to New York to work at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Mary Lou Joined the Navy Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War and was stationed at Yokosuka, Japan, Bethesda Naval Hospital, and Great Lakes Naval Hospital ultimately earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After her discharge from the Navy, Mary Lou traveled the world as a senior clinical research associate for Abbott Laboratories overseeing clinical trials for their pharmaceutical products division.

In 1980, Mary Lou moved to Boise and married Harvey Orndorff. She left professional nursing behind and began pursuing her passion of watercolor painting. She studied under Kolan Peterson in California and Roland Giampanoli in Boise. It is in this medium that Mary Lou spent 30 years developing a niche, specializing in the architectural treasures and street scenes of downtown Boise. Some of her more well-known works are the Union Block Building, Lucky 13, Saturday Market, Hyde Park, The Egyptian Theatre, and Basque Center among others. Her work also includes Northwest landscapes and Tuscany village scenes. She was inspired by historic buildings and the way they are put to modern use. She always included people to capture a vibrant and friendly atmosphere her paintings reflected. Mary Lou’s last work was of her church, Collister United Methodist, and a representation of the diverse congregation that she so enjoyed in her spiritual journey. Her works have been displayed in art galleries and exhibitions and are part of several private and corporate collections.

Mary Lou shared her love of art with children as a docent at the Boise Art Museum for 14 years and was greatly concerned for the future of art education in schools. She was passionate about education and helped to endow a veteran’s scholarship at BSU and a nursing scholarship at LCSC in Lewiston. She also gave generously to BAM and the Boise YMCA. Mary Lou along with her partner of 20 years, George Shaber, cycled extensively throughout the U.S. and enjoyed a variety of Elderhostel programs.

Mary Lou was welcomed by the eternal embrace of her parents, loving husband Harvey and sister Linda, beloved daughter-in-law Janet, precious great-granddaughter Rowan and her devoted partner, George. Both Harvey and George were combat veterans of World War II whose lives were enriched and tempered by the loving tenderness of Mary Lou. She is survived by family, friends, and her beloved cat Pumpkin who had their lives enriched by the grace of her love, supportive non-judgmental nature and trademark good humor. She made all of us be better and we’ll need to work hard to fill the goodness deficit left by her passing.

Forever modest and humble, Mary Lou would not like us to make a fuss but a fuss we will make to celebrate the life of an angel who walked among us. Final respects with Military Funeral Honors will be at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery on April 19 at 2:45 p.m. A church service will be held at Collister United Methodist on May 19 at 12:30 with a Celebration of Life held at Zero Six Coffee Fix on May 21 from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers, those wishing to remember Mary Lou with memorials may send them to George K. Shaber Veteran’s Scholarship, Boise State Foundation, 2225 University Dr., Boise 83706. Memories and condolences may be shared on Mary Lou’s memorial webpage at