Marie Ann Degnan

27 February 1935 - 13 June 2018

Under: Obituary

Marie Ann Degnan of Walnut Creek passed away on June 13, 2018. Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, Marie received a Master's degree in Biochemistry and later attended medical school at the University of Miami. Inspired by the lyrics of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," Marie traveled to the West coast with a girlfriend, and continued her professional career as an electron microscopist at the California Department of Public Health in Berkeley. In 1964, she discovered that the feline leukemia virus was hereditary, which later led to the development of the feline leukemia vaccine.

Soon after arriving in San Francisco, Marie met and ultimately married, Michael Degnan, a Bechtel electrical engineer and Oakland native. A few years later, she left her career in order to dedicate herself full-time to the raising of their three children: daughter, Michelle, and two sons, Mark and James. Family life began in Berkeley, California and continued in Walnut Creek, California; Alberta, Canada; Montreal, Canada; Louisville, Kentucky; Houston, Texas, and finally Saudi Arabia, where the family remained for 21 years. During this time, the Degnan family traveled the world extensively and created deep and enduring friendships.

While in Saudi Arabia, Marie embarked on a new career as the voice of Aramco Channel Three in Dhahran — and the only Western voice heard on-air — she broadcasted the daily Associated Press news throughout the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Marie's greatest joy in life was devoting time to her children, of whom she was exceedingly proud. Family gatherings, particularly Easter, were her priority and passion. Marie had a great love of reading, needlepoint, and quilting. While in Saudi Arabia, she often entertained members of the 82nd Airborne Division, who were based in Dhahran during the first Gulf War. Upon returning home from Saudi Arabia in 2000, Marie and Mike both took great pleasure in spending time with family and enjoying the vibrant community of new friends at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California.

Generous, compassionate, and wise, Marie brought enlightenment to all those who she encountered and helped them to find meaning in their lives.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Stanley and Mary Janecki; her sister, Margaret; and countless aunts and uncles. She is survived by Michael, her husband of 54 years; her daughter, Michelle Ackert; her sons, Mark and James; daughter-in-law Evelynne, and two beloved granddaughters, Elizabeth and Alexandra.

A funeral mass will be held at St. Anne's Church, in Walnut Creek, California on Friday, June 22, at 1:00 PM. Burial to follow at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Lafayette.

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