She departed to heaven April 24, 2014.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her siblings; her husband, Hank Palmros, in 1990; daughter “Pini” Cantu, in 2005; grandson Joseph Damien Cantu, in 2014; and great granddaughter Madison Lea Pannell, in 1999.
Mary Lou is survived by her son, Lyman Graham Palmros; her granddaughter, Cheryl Pannell and husband Bill; grandsons Larry McCann and Eugene Paul Cantu; and three great grandsons, Travis, Joshua and Hayden Pannell.
Mary Lou was brought up in a home with exceptional morals — where honesty and integrity were the most highly regarded values in life. Her mother used to read and teach Mary Lou from “The McGuffey Reader,” a popular textbook for children learning to read. One of her favorite quotes from the series was, “Keep a watch on your words, my darling, for words are wonderful things. They can bless like God's great sunshine or like the bees they can have terrible stings.”
While that saying was close to Mary Lou's heart, her favorite mantra came from her mother's own speech.
“The only thing that you can keep is that which you give away.”
In her adolescent years, Mary Lou could be found singing in choirs throughout Fort Worth. Her life revolved around music and singing.
From an early age, Mary Lou's mother took her to church which also afforded her the opportunity to indulge her passion and talent for singing. One day as she and the choir led the church in a few lines of “Just As I Am,” Mary Lou's heart was changed. She approached the pastor at the pulpit and soon thereafter was baptized. That was one of her favorite memories in her lifetime, and she would tell the story as though it had just happened.
Mary Lou graduated from Paschal High School in 1939 and attended Texas Christian University. On July 27, 1940, she married Henry “Hank” Palmros. He was an engineer with the United States government during World War II. During that time, Mary Lou said the couple moved 26 times. When they returned to Fort Worth, she picked up where she had left off with her music career. She was with an opera company for 2 1/2 years. In her last year there, she had the opportunity to go to New York City where she was offered a contract to sing on the New York Life Circuit. She was living her passion but at the expense of her personal life. One day she overheard Hank sarcastically say to a friend, “this is one hell of a marriage.” That made her reconsider her priorities, and she decided to surrender her singing career. She refocused her talents by giving piano and singing lessons from her home. Her music studio grew to eventually comprise 40 students.
Mary Lou's legacy at Possum Kingdom Lake began in the 1950s when Hank visited the lake for the first time and was so enthralled by its beauty he brought his family to visit for a weekend. The first place they stayed was shabby, but Mary Lou soon fell in love with the lake and it did not matter. They visited PK four or five times each summer.
St. Peter's by the Lake was originally established as a mission church by the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas in 1962. The following year the Episcopal church building from Holy Spirit in Graham was donated by two Wichita Falls businessmen, who had it moved to Possum Kingdom. This was a summer church, from Memorial weekend to Labor Day weekend, where a priest was provided once a month and lay readers Chuck Schick, Dr. Brown and Hank Palmros on other Sundays. Mary Lou played a small pump organ, the air was supplied by a vacuum cleaner. She could never play more than two verses, because her legs wore out.
Easter weekend 1966 Hank bought a lake house to Mary Lou's surprise. She and her family came to the lake every weekend that summer.
“We had a ball all summer long, like a long vacation.”
Of course, the lake was not as populated then and the only businesses on the lake were a grocery store and the filling station next door to it. There was one restaurant, La Villa, where now there are condominiums. Boaters could cruise over to La Villa to have a meal. That August, Mary Lou's daughter. Pini, told Hank that she didn't want to go back to Fort Worth and that she loved PK and wanted to stay.
“Since Hank was a professional engineer and worked for architects in Abilene, Big Spring and Wichita Falls, he had to drive to those towns anyway, so why not? Hank set up one bedroom as his office.
“I'd catch Hank sometimes gazing out the window looking at the lake and was afraid he was not getting much work done, but I was wrong and he did,” said Mary Lou.
It was an adjustment for them not having all the conveniences to which they were accustomed, but they enjoyed themselves so much it didn't matter. They went fishing every morning before breakfast and again before dinner.
“What a life!” Mary Lou always said.
Hank was a Rotarian and transferred his membership from Fort Worth to PK so that gave them lots of new friends.
Every Friday they would load up the car with laundry and water bottles and head to town.
“We would come back with a week's supply of groceries, water and clean clothes.”
Later that year Mary Lou's mother, Myrtle Goodwin, moved in with Mary Lou and her husband and children. The family added a room to their PK home and Mary Lou helped with the building, although it was a learning curve for her.
“I had to learn how to hold a hammer and hold my own,” she said.
Mary Lou's mother, known as “Precious,” lived there seven years and it was said those were the happiest years of her mother's life since Mary Lou's father had passed. Precious would sit on the deck and literally watch the fish swim.
In 1967, Hank, Bill Ochiltree and Lee Fishers went to the bishop and requested St. Peter's by the Lake be a full-time mission.
Mary Lou was asked by Nell Ochiltree, the lady who sold them their lake house, if Mary Lou wanted to sell real estate. Within a month, she passed the state exam and from then on Nell would send all the prospects to Mary Lou, who found she loved selling real estate and made so many friends.
Shortly after beginning to show real estate, pants came into fashion for women. Mary Lou mentioned this to her husband, Hank, and he quickly responded with, “Absolutely not. I am the one who wears the pants in this relationship.”
Mary Lou respected his opinion. The next day, while wearing her skirt, Mary Lou was on a dock helping some people tie up their boat. The wind gust sent Mary Lou's skirts flying up around her head, giving everyone quite a show. Mary Lou went home and told her husband about what had happened, and the next day they went straight to town and bought Mary Lou her first pair of pants.
She had much to learn about the lake, but Nell was a good teacher. When Nell's health began to fail, she sold the business to Harry Cohen, in 1972, who named the company Possum Kingdom Real Estate. In 1988, Mary Lou purchased the business and her daughter, Pini, became an agent and Cheryl, her granddaughter, was the secretary. In 1996, Keith and Vee Hanssen bought the business and Mary Lou stayed on as a partner.
In 1998, Possum Kingdom Real Estate moved to its present location at The Welcome Center and the business prospered with Mary Lou always being a major source of “light and salt.” Over four decades, Mary Lou made many friends and lake neighbors out of her clients. She lived the last years of her life taking care of others and consulting in real estate.
She described her life as “giving happiness and joy to others.”
At the end of her memoirs she stated, “in the five decades I've been at Possum Kingdom Lake I've lived through two floods, three tornadoes and numerous droughts, lowering the lake 16 feet to repair the dam, and even the fires, and we have survived them all and always come out better for the experience. So look for the silver lining and know that we will be stronger and better for the experience.”
Mary Lou was surrounded by friends and loved ones in her peaceful lake condo until she departed for heaven. She wanted to be sure and express her gratitude for those “who gave flowers to the living” by taking time to visit with her.
A memorial fund has been established with St. Peters by the Lake Episcopal Church. Note “Memorial for Mary Lou Palmros” and mail to P.O. Box 118, Graford, TX 76449.
Family and close friends will be gathering at St. Peters Friday, May 23. At 2 p.m. Sunday, May 25, neighbors and friends will be sharing memories of Mary Lou's extraordinary life at the PK Chamber of Commerce. The lake community is invited to enjoy Mary Lou's recorded music and learn about one of the lake's true pioneers.