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Mary DeCesar

DDS Commissioner Elin Howe and Mary DeCesar with her drawing in the background.

Mary DeCesar recently stopped by the DDS central office to donate one of her drawings for our reception area. Mary works at Gateway Arts, a DDS contracted program. While Mary has become an accomplished artist, her life story is just as compelling. Born with an intellectual disability she lived at home until she was 7 years old.

As she puts it “When I was 7 years old my family took me to a hospital in Boston for a checkup. The doctors recommended that they put me in the Fernald School immediately. From the hospital my family drove me to Fernald and left me off. I told them I didn’t want to stay but I was told that I had to. I watched them drive away and I cried and cried. I was only a little seven year old girl!”

Mary went on to work hard at Fernald and when she turned 18 “I graduated and left never wanting to go back.” Mary found a cleaning job at Hanscom Air Force Base and worked there for many years. “The people there were very nice to me but after a while I wanted to do more with my life.”

In 2005 she decided she wanted to pursue a career in art and began attending Gateway Arts, a studio in Brookline for people with disabilities. She began to create beautiful self-portraits, often in the form of meticulously constructed embroideries. These works were displayed as wall hangings or transformed into sculptural dolls. Mary has also developed her keen eye for detail into jewelry making, drawing, pottery and weaving.

Her work has been exhibited at the Boston Children’s Museum, Gateway Gallery, Barney’s NY retail outlets, the Mall at Chestnut Hill, the Fuller Craft Museum, Drive-By projects and the Waterworks Museum.

A very independent woman, you might catch Mary out and about listening to her radio on a park bench or exploring hobby shops, second hand stores or flea markets for new ideas. Her next project “..an embroidery of Mick Jagger….he’s a big rock star you know!”

Mary is one of the over 34,000 people the Department serves every day that makes us proud.

Written By:


Deputy Communications Director, Office of Health and Human Services

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