Mary Lane Oliver Harle was born Feb. 4,1931 in San Antonio, Texas to Lida Smith Oliver and Lane
Elsberry Oliver (Dadlo). Mary Lane lived the early part of her life in South Texas, starting with Big Wells. The family began moving around about 1941 going
from Dilley (1941) to Junction (1942), Pearsall (1946) and ending up in Carrizo Springs (1947). In Carrizo Springs, Dadlo died on Jan. 1, 1948 in Mary
Lane’s senior year of high school. She remained there through graduation and then moved to Kingsville with her mother to begin college at Texas A&I.
After 2 years at A&I, Mary Lane moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. While there,
she majored in English and Spanish. After graduation (with highest honors), she became a teacher. She taught in Houston and Sugarland. In June of 1954, she
traveled to Mexico for an international studies program through the University of Houston. She returned to Houston and in September began violin lessons with
Max Winder, who was the associate concertmaster at Houston Symphony.
Mary Lane desired to be an airline stewardess, but was discouraged by her mother, Lida, who pushed
for Mary Lane to be a teacher. Teaching was a stable job appropriate for a young woman in this era. Mary Lane acquiesced, writing to her mother, “I have
decided to quit pining for the unknown and to like teaching, because I realize that I am actually well-suited to being a teacher and it is work that endures
where glamour fades in other jobs. I’m trying to convince myself of this at any rate...”
She married James B. Harle, MD on June 11, 1955. She moved to Bellville and taught for a few more
years. But she had no passion for teaching and longed for the unknown and romantic. She began painting in the late 50s and embarked on art education at the
Houston Museum of Fine Art School in the early to mid 60s. It was during this period that she and James purchased the farm, which Mary Lane loved with her
whole heart. She moved her studio out to the camp house and worked assiduously at painting.
In 1967, she spent the summer in San Miguel de Allende, where studied at the Institute of Art in San
Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In 1969, she entered Sam Houston State University, where she completed her Masters of Art Education (again, with highest honors).
It was a pragmatic degree, and one she never used. She divorced James in 1975 and moved out to the farm where she remained until dementia forced her into
Mary Lane was an artist, musician, poet and writer. She exhibited her work in the Museum School of
Art shows at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts at Sam Houston State University, and at various local and regional shows. She was associated for a number of
years with the Lowell Collins Gallery in Houston, Texas, and her work is owned by private collectors throughout the country.
Always fighting low self esteem, she hated photographs of herself. She was a hermit and treasured her
solitary, inward life at the farm. There she immersed herself in the colors, shapes, and forces of the elemental things of nature - meadows, woods,
skies, sunlight and storm, the deep subliminal beauty of sunsets and dawns. As she put it:
“The most difficult thing is to capture that glimpse of poetic mystery, the sense of a timeless and
eternal world that flashes out sometimes from the sunlight and shadows falling across leaves in a wood, from a misty dawn or a spring wind blowing across a
meadow, or from the timeless infinitude of the horizon. Perhaps a page from a work by Juan Ramon Jiminez best expresses that fleeting awareness of the strange
purity and eternity of life alone with nature -
‘BEFORE US LIES THE OPEN COUNTRY. FACE TO FACE WITH THE VAST PURE SKY
OF FIERY BLUE, MY EYES - SO FAR FROM MY EARS - OPEN CONTENTEDLY,
RECEIVING IN ALL ITS QUIETNESS THAT NAMELESS CALM, THAT HARMONIOUS
AND DIVINE SERENITY THAT LIES IN THE INFINITUDE OF THE HORIZON.
AND FROM A DISTANCE, OVER THE FIELDS, SHARP CRIES FROM THE CHILDREN,
FINELY MUFFLED, BROKEN, BREATHLESS, FAINT:
To capture the strangeness, mystery, and beauty of life in something so earthbound as paint and
canvas is truly an impossible task, but still, one has to try.”
Though she treasured her solitude, at the same time she longed to share her experience with anyone
who visited. Unfortunately, that usually meant she spent the whole visit trying to make her guest comfortable and often she had to be forced to sit down and
have a glass of wine and simply enjoy the view.
In 1986, Mary Lane joined the Austin County Civic Chorale as a founding member. She loved the chorale
and adored Janet, the Chorale’s director. She was an ardent supporter and sang in every program up to 2008, when her affliction made singing impossible.
After a long struggle with dementia, Mary Lane died peacefully on Aug. 4, 2011, six months to the day after her 80th birthday.
Mary Lane is survived by her sister, Lida Florence Pitts, her three children, James Oliver, John
Baldwin and Sally Lane. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Sara Elizabeth Harle, James Morgan Harle,, Samuel MacRae Haugland and Mackenzie Lane
Haugland; nieces and nephews and numerous friends both near and far.
The family wishes to express their immense and unending gratitude to the staff at Rose Hill
Retirement Home and the nurses and staff at Hospice Brazos Valley who gave her such excellent care in the last stage of her life.
In her memory, donations may be made to The Austin County Civic Chorale and to Hospice Brazos Valley.
Posted by Joy Neely