Mary Frances McKeel

October 26, 2020

CHARLOTTE - Mary Frances McKeel, 94, passed away on Monday, October 26, 2020 at Elmcroft of Little Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mary Frances was born December 10, 1926 to Gambrell and Isabel Shirley in Tupelo, Mississippi.  She was the first of eight children and graduated from Tupelo High School in 1943.   Mary Frances attended Mississippi State College for Women for three years before transferring to Vanderbilt on an academic scholarship.

Mary Frances worked in Washington, D.C. as a secretary for the State Department and then for the FBI. While working in D.C. she met and married Charles "Sandy" Baynor McKeel III, a law student at George Washington University in 1951.  They made their home in Charlotte, North Carolina near his family.  She completed her bachelor's degree from Queen College in later years.

Mary Frances is survived by her three daughters, Deborah and her husband, Harry Palefsky, of Charlotte, NC, Mary McKeel of Charlotte, NC and Elizabeth "Betsy" Gilchrist, of Beaufort, NC; three grandchildren, Lauren and her husband, Robert Unell, David and his wife, Kate Palefsky and Greyson Gilchrist; and three great-grandchildren, Riley Unell, Miller Unell and Winnifred Palefsky.  Mary Frances has three living siblings, Robert "Bob" Shirley and Nina Kitchen both of Tupelo, MS and Lucy Wiygul of Windsor, ME.

In addition to her parents, Mary Frances is preceded in death by her husband of 41 years, Charles "Sandy" Baynor McKeel III, and four brothers Jack Shirley, Sam Shirley, Bill Shirley and Lawrence Shirley.

Mary Frances will be inurned with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery on a later date.

Memorials may be sent to Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region, 7845 Little Ave. Charlotte, NC, 28226 or a charity close to the donor's heart.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC 28204; (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at

Share your memories & condolences