Mary K. Kittel Place, age 81, loving wife and mother, passed away on December 29 in Visalia, CA, surrounded by her family. Born April 25, 1941, to Albert and Louis Kittel in Joplin, MO, Mary was the youngest of two daughters.

Her father moved the family seasonally between Missouri and California for his job as a painter. They eventually settled in Compton, CA, where Mary met and married Ernie Wheeler. Mary and Ernie had four children that they raised in San Luis Obispo.

Mary worked at Dutch Maid Dairy and then for many years at Rileys Department Store, where she loved meeting and talking with people in the community. In 1982 Mary met her second husband, John Place, through a good friend. Mary and John had a wonderful life together. They traveled abroad, went on cruises, and drove around the country. They were great companions and friends. Mary had a big personality. She was funny and intelligent and loved to laugh and have a good time. She read everything she could, from novels to STAR magazine. She was self-taught and self-educated and could answer any of your questions. She loved her home and had a great eye for decorating. Every home she lived in was filled with beautiful things that reflected her and John. She was a fantastic cook and loved to cook okie spaghetti and green chili and pork; recipes handed down from her mother and mother-in-law. Mary had a green thumb and could grow a garden that would amaze you, and when you asked for her secrets, she would tell you it wasn’t anything special, but we knew what it was; it was her.

Mary is survived by her loving husband, John, and her children: Ernie (Linda) Wheeler: E.J, Rebecca, Shannon; Keith (Lori) Wheeler: Lindsey, Lacie (Jordan, Lauren, Meghan); La Rea Rivera: Ryan, Ross, Faith; Jennifer (Rudy) Binkele: Georgia, Rudy Jr., Erica, Nolan; stepchildren: Michelle, Mikel, Kim, and many great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be held.