Mary Lou Canady, a homemaker who devoted herself to helping others as a Girl Scout leader and the mother of a homicide victim, died March 8 from a stroke, her family said. She was 81.
Mrs. Canady lived by the Girl Scout Promise she made as a youngster "to help people at all times." Besides Girl Scouts, she was active in many Kiwanis community service projects with her husband, Bob, and volunteered in the library at Maple Elementary School in Sacramento.
She spent more than 60 years as a leader, mentor and friend to generations of Girl Scouts members and volunteers at many levels, starting as troop leader for her daughters and granddaughters. As president of the Tierra del Oro Council, she led efforts to raise money and build the group's Camp Fleming site in Somerset. She also volunteered for the national Girl Scouts organization.
"She had a great love for Girl Scouts and what they taught girls," her husband said. "She wanted girls to know that they could be themselves and be independent and lead their own lives."
Mrs. Canady was a woman of compassion and strength who continued giving to others despite enduring a terrible loss. In 1985, her daughter Linda was kidnapped, raped and killed by two robbers.
It took five years before charges were filed against John Anthony Bertsch and Jeffrey Lee Hronis. Shaky evidence led prosecutors to drop the case; it was refiled in 1995, but legal issues delayed the trial's start to 2000.
Mrs. Canady and her husband never gave up during a 15-year odyssey for justice. They attended every day of the nine-month-long murder trial, the longest in Sacramento County history. Bertsch and Hronis were convicted and sentenced to death.
Hoping to help other families of homicide victims, the Canadys went on to share their story in sensitivity training classes for law enforcement professionals.
For the last five years, Mrs. Canady spoke from her heart to groups of homicide detectives about the helplessness she felt interacting with some investigators who focused on finding her daughter's killers while overlooking the family's pain and need for understanding.
"She affected a lot of young detectives in the way they deal with family members," said Paul Coulter, a Los Angeles police detective who helps lead the training. "She comes across as very sincere. That's just her spirit."
Mary Lou DeSoto was born in 1931 in Manteca. Her father was a barber, and her mother was a homemaker who died when Mary Lou was 12.
She was active in Girl Scouts and was valedictorian of Manteca Union High School. She married Robert Canady 63 years ago and had three children.
Mrs. Canady was "an honorable person of grace and dignity," said Rob Gold, a Sacramento County supervising district attorney who prosecuted Bertsch and Hronis. He recalled the support he received from her and her husband during the arduous trial.
"They were there every day, and I always felt their presence," Gold said. "It was a very difficult case, but I wanted to give everything I had because they were watching."
Mary Lou Canady
Born: May 8, 1931
Died: March 8, 2013
Survived by: Husband, Bob, of Sacramento; children, Carolyn of Nevada City, and David of Citrus Heights; sister, Jane Guthmiller of Manteca; brothers, Frank DeSoto of Manteca, and Andy DeSoto of Tennessee; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren
Services: Celebration of life, 2 to 5 p.m. April 7 at Howe Park Community Center, 2201 Cottage Way, Sacramento
Remembrances: Donations may be made to Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, 6601 Elvas Ave., Sacramento, CA 95819; or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Northern California Inland Chapter, 1333 Howe Ave., Sacramento, CA 95825. Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.