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Mary was born in New York City on September 5, 1958. The fourth of Elmar and Joan Sepp's six children, her love for words and interest in culture and travel were apparent from early childhood.


Blessed with a ferocious love of humanity, Mary was driven to learn languages, travel to distant lands, and share the things she'd learned along the way.

Mary attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and then accepted a scholarship to Fordham University, where she majored in French and minored in Russian.


Having achieved fluency in the French language very quickly, Mary completed her junior year abroad at the University of Nancy, France, where she began to form many lifelong friendships with people from around the world.

Mary's interest in language came from her Estonian father, who spoke Swedish, English and Estonian.


Her initial interest in Russian stemmed from a desire to learn more about the Soviet Union and how Russia came to play the role it played in her father's life.


Also interested in affairs of state, Mary's fluency in French led her to work for the Canadian government, where she landed the highest-ranking position achievable by a non-Canadian citizen with the Canadian Consulate in New York City, as an immigraiton officer.


Furthering her interest in Russian language and culture, Mary completed a master's degree in Russian Area Studies at Hunter College while deepening her Russian-language skills under the tutelage of Maria Tolstoy, granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy.


A true polyglot, Mary also began learning Estonian and Swedish at this time. Mary was an active member of the Estonian community in New York throughout the 1980s and 90s, dancing with the Saare Vikat folk dancing troupe out of the Estonian House on 34th Street.


She danced with Saare Vikat at the Esto 84, 88 and 92 events in Canada, Australia and New York.

Toward the end of the cold war, Mary traveled to Kalinin Russia (now Tver) to participate in a Russian-language graduate program with Brown University.


After returning, Mary began teaching and teacher training, eventually temporarily moving to Tallinn to teach Business English at a local language institute.


After returning to the U.S. and eventually earning a Ph.D. in Corpus/Computational Linguistics from C.U.N.Y Graduate Center, her doctoral studies would prompt an extended stay in Siena, Italy to study Italian followed by a return to Estonia—this time Tartu—to focus on research for her doctoral dissertation on Estonian compounds.

Mary began her last position as a professor in the Academic Literacy & Linguistics department—where she served as deputy chair—at the Borough of Manhattan Community College campus of C.U.N.Y.

Mary is survived by four of her siblings: Eileen Sepp, Joan Daley, Alan Sepp and EJ Sepp; as well as five nieces: Erin Daley; Jessica, Kimberly, Taylor and Ava Sepp; and three nephews: Scott Sepp, Matthew Daley, and Michael Sepp; a large extended family, many beloved friends, colleagues and students.


She was preceded in death by her brother, Fr. Michael Sepp and her parents, Elmar and Joan Sepp.

A devout Roman Catholic residing in Larchmont, NY, Mary passed away quietly at White Plains Hospital due to complications from lymphoma.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Fr. Michael Sepp Scholarship.


Please go to this link:

A celebration of Mary's life was held on Thursday October 8, 2020 at Pelham Funeral Home.

A Mass of the Resurrection was held on Friday October 9, 2020, 10:30 at Immaculate Conception Church in Tuckahoe, NY.

EJ Sepp


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