Mary Ann Downs Edwards, 83, of Smithfield, VA passed away on April 16, 2022 at her home on The Oaks Farm in Smithfield, VA. She was born November 30, 1938 in Elberton, GA, the third of five children of Frank Arden and Anne Garrett Downs. Mary Ann grew up on a 72-acre farm in Oconee County, GA in the Bogart/Statham area, attended small public schools there, and graduated with honors from Bogart High School in 1956. She graduated with a BS in Bacteriology from the University of Georgia in 1960 and worked as a bacteriologist at the CDC in Atlanta, GA.
Mary Ann married Ryland B. Edwards, Jr on December 29, 1962 at Saint James Methodist Church in Athens, GA. They lived in Omaha, Nebraska while Ryland was in the US Air Force and she continued her work as a microbiologist at the base hospital on Offutt Air Force Base, United States Strategic Air Command. They then returned to Athens, GA when Ryland returned to teach at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia. Mary Ann and Ryland moved to Smithfield in 1966 where Ryland opened The Oaks Veterinary Clinic. Mary Ann was the first microbiologist hired at Gwaltney Foods, where she worked and developed the department for 17 years. In 1984 Mary Ann started working full-time as practice manager of The Oaks Veterinary Clinic and continued in this role for approximately 38 years. Mary Ann was a devoted wife and partner to Ryland, a loving and forthright mother, an adoring grandmother, and a voracious reader, a practice which began for her when a childhood teacher requested children read the newspaper daily. For much of her life, Mary Ann read multiple newspapers in their entireties every day, in addition to a book or more daily. Mary Ann cared deeply for the staff at The Oaks Veterinary Clinic and supported many in need in the communities of Smithfield and Isle of Wight County.
Mary Ann was preceded in death by her parents, Martha Anne Garrett Downs and Frank Arden Downs; her in-laws Catherine Chapman Yeoman Edwards and Ryland Branch Edwards, Sr; and her sister, Martha Downs Clements of Pine Mountain, GA. She is survived by her husband, Ryland Branch Edwards, Jr; her sons, Ryland (Lynn) B. Edwards, III of Sandy Hook, CT and Frank Garrett (Shanna French) Edwards of Smithfield, VA; her grandchildren, Frank Garrett Edwards, Jr. and Hannah Keys Edwards of Smithfield, VA; Rory Benjamin Edwards, Samuel Ryland Edwards, and Colin Flynn Edwards of Sandy Hook, CT; her siblings, Robert A. (Joy) Downs of Statham, GA, G. Glenn (Barbara) Downs of Statham, GA, and W. C. “Bill” (Dot) Downs of LaGrange, GA; her aunt, Claire McDougald of Statham, GA; her uncle, Dick Garrett of Statham, GA; her sister-in-law, Mary Catherine Cole of Smithfield, VA; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations will be gratefully accepted in Mary Ann’s remembrance to either of two organizations which were important to her: Isle of Wight Christian Outreach Program, https://iowcop.net/financial-giving; or Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Wellness Memorial Fund, https://blogs.vetmed.vt.edu/wellness-memorial-fund.html. A private memorial service will be held in June.