Mary Agnes (Hughes) Shipley, wife of Robert M. Shipley Jr., son of the founder of Gemological Institute of America and himself a pioneer in creating gemological instruments, has died. One of the very few survivors of GIA’s foundation years in the 1930s, she passed away May 27 at the age of 92, announced GIA.
In the late 1930s, Mary Hughes worked as a secretary for Bob Shipley Jr., who was instrumental in helping his father establish and develop GIA and the American Gem Society. She also worked for Richard T. Liddicoat Jr., who joined GIA in 1940 and later served as executive director, president, and chairman of GIA. Shipley Jr. was the GIA laboratory director-creating many of the first gem instruments for the industry-and later the director of education and research, until he left for wartime service.
Mary married Robert Jr., on Nov. 2, 1940.
“Mary was a lovely young Canadian who was very competent in stenography and office organization,” recalled Liddicoat recently. “No one on the staff, to my knowledge, was even aware that any kind of friendship was budding between Bob Jr. and Mary Hughes, so when their engagement was announced, it came as a happy surprise to the small staff on South Alexandria [street where GIA was then located in Los Angeles].
“In addition to her office skills, Mary was also a very talented pianist on a concert level. With her positive outlook and quiet but friendly, outgoing personality, she was a favorite of the staff and an inspiration to Bob Jr. and to their sons. Mary Shipley was a great gal,” added Liddicoat.
After World War II, Robert Jr. was made an Honorary Research Member of GIA and began his own instrument research and development company in Los Angeles. The Shipleys later moved to northern California, where Mary assisted her husband in his work, which included developing instruments for AGS in the early 1950s, and later solar research.
In announcing her death, GIA President Bill Boyajian said, “The GIA family is deeply saddened by the loss of Mary Shipley. She played an important role in the early development of the Institute, and her contributions will long be remembered.”
Mary is survived by two sons, Robert M. III of Rome, Italy, and George E. of Vancouver, Wash.; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.