Mary Armstrong Lake went to live with her Lord and Savior at Arbor Terrace in Rochester, MN on March 23, 2023 at the age of 96. Mary Armstrong Lake was born on December 4, 1926 in Utica, NY to Rev BF Armstrong and Margaret Denison Armstrong. The family lived in several cities in upstate New York; including Elmira, Corning and Johnson City. She attended high school at Houghton Academy in Houghton, NY.
She was married to Hiram “Hi” Lake of Binghamton, NY in 1946; They spent two years at Nyack Missionary College, then Wheaton College in Illinois while Hi earned his degree in anthropology. The family lived in Johnson City, NY until February 1957, when they sailed to New Guinea with their two older children, Larry and Karen, via Holland, Dakar, Singapore and Labuan.
Mary and Hi served the Dani in the Baliem Valley from 1957 to 1965, a group historically known as the “primitive Stone Age cannibals”. Mary was active in language learning, Bible translation, and informal ministry to village women, as well as constant labor to maintain a home in primitive conditions with unreliable utilities, no electricity, no running water, almost no contact with other missionaries, and the frequent absence of her first two Children who were at the mission’s boarding school and only at home twice a year. Letters and packages from family members in the United States sometimes took up to 6 months to arrive.
The years in the Baliem at their Pugima station were perilous and fraught with disease and daunting challenges: at one point Hi and Mary were poisoned by followers of an enemy shaman and attacked at night by a group of his warriors who threatened to burn down the grass house where Mary was then living Time ill with undiagnosed cerebral meningitis: A year after she’d miraculously recovered, lab results arrived from Holland. Over the years, Mary survived at least eight serious illnesses, including polio, dysentery, malaria, and breast cancer, and attributed her recovery to the grace of the God she served.
Son David was born in New Guinea and a year later the family returned to the United States, largely doubting that they had done much good in the mission field. The Lakes settled in New Jersey where Hi worked for RCA Laboratories and later employers and where Kevin was born. In 1975 they moved to Rochester, Minnesota, where Hi became director of materials management at St. Mary’s Hospital, an affiliate of the Mayo Clinic. In the years that followed, they witnessed great spiritual growth among the Dani of the Pugima region: thousands of baptized believers in at least six village churches, all resulting from their faithful service to just one Dani believer in the early days, who later became his clan influenced, and from the later work of other missionaries.
Mary was a member of Autumn Ridge Church for 47 years and led women’s Bible studies for the Bible Study Fellowship for 18 years. She loved her family and enjoyed being with them.
She was preceded by her nearly 70-year-old husband Hi, who died in 2016, and her siblings Ben Armstrong and Ruthie Megill. She is survived by four children Larry (MaryBeth) Lake, Karen (Rick) Foster, David (LeAnn) Lake and Kevin (Debi) Lake, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Mary’s life will be held at 11:00 am on March 30 at Timothy Chapel, Autumn Ridge Church, Rochester, MN, where Rev. John Steer will officiate. The visitation takes place one hour before the service at 10:00 am. Burial will take place at Oakwood Cemetery. A big thank you to all the staff at Arbor Terrace where Mary lived independently for eleven years and has spent the last year and a half in memorial service.
Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes is honored to serve the Lake family; To share a special keepsake or condolence please visit www.ranfranzandvinefh.com.