94-year-old with 200 hats wants to know your favorite for charity

Mary Stephenson wears many hats. She is 94 years old, she’s been married to her husband, Tom, for 72 years, she’s a philanthropist, and she has nearly 200 hats.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 11:36 AM CDT
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV) - Mary Stephenson wears many hats. She is 94 years old, she’s been married to her husband, Tom, for 72 years, she’s a philanthropist, and she has nearly 200 hats.

“They are in every closet,” Stephenson said. “The basement, the upstairs closet, and when I open the closet, they fall out.”

Her family says Stephenson won’t even walk to the mailbox without one of her famous hats on.

“I just feel lost without a hat, I always wanted a hat on.”

Stephenson was raised on a farm near O’Fallon, Missouri. She was raised Baptist and a hat was part of a typical Sunday church wardrobe. Over time, her love for hats grew outside of just her Sunday best.

When she married Tom, they joined First St. Charles United Methodist Church where hats were uncommon.

“When we first came here we said some of them might not like it but they’ll get over it,” Stephenson said with a laugh. “And everybody has been so nice.”

Over the years, Tom and Mary have become staples at First St. Charles United Methodist. They have also been heavily involved in the St. Charles community.

“They are the best-dressed couple here,” said associate pastor Kate Hanch.

Mary says she makes sure every hat she wears has an outfit to match. Oftentimes, Tom will also match Mary’s outfits. The congregation as well as people all over the world watching on social media looks forward to seeing what the Stephensons wear each Sunday.

So in their honor, the church decided to put her hats on display and have people vote for their favorite.

“It’s so cool to see the generations come together for Mary’s hat display. You will see teenage boys voting for hats, my husband has voted for hats, the choir is getting in on voting for the hats,” Hanch said. “It’s been a way to connect with one another, to bond with the community and to celebrate Mary who has been a mainstay of the St. Charles community for years and years and has given back in so many ways.”

Mary told News 4 that if she won the lottery, she would donate all of the money. So they made the hat race a fundraiser. The money will go towards a scholarship.

Next month, Mary will wear the winning hat to church.

“Well, it’ll call for a new outfit,” Stephenson laughs. “If I don’t have an outfit to match the hat I’ll have to go out and buy a new outfit.”

If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund you can do so on the church’s website. They ask you to explain in the donation note that it is for Mary Stephenson’s Scholarship Fundraiser.