Mary Ann Cleveland was born Mary Ann Bachner, on Oct. 12, 1940, in Pittsburgh to George and Hilda Bachner.
Mary Ann was the youngest of four children, which included brother Ralph and twin brothers Paul and George. She grew up in a German Catholic neighborhood and attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1958.
Her father spent many hours volunteering at the family’s local church (St. Joseph’s Catholic Church), in various capacities. Later her brothers would follow in his footsteps. Watching her family lend a helping hand to others in need inspired her to become a lifelong volunteer and activist, which included caring for her mother who would eventually lose her fight with cancer when Mary Ann was 18 years old.
From 1960 to 1962, she produced flyers for real estate agents associated with a multiple listing service.
In 1962, she married Daniel Flanagan, an accountant. They had three children Daniel Jr., Shawn and Kathleen, who is now a teacher in the Vail School District. For many years Mary Ann remained at home to take care of them.
In 1978, the family tired of the cold weather in Pennsylvania and relocated to Tucson. In 1979, she received her real estate license and became a Realtor. She worked for several local area real estate agencies in including Century 21. In the mid-1980s, she became a broker in order to advance in the profession, and decided to start her own agency.
After a divorce from Dan, she met Robert Cleveland, a retired electrical engineer who was looking for a house and ended up getting a wife in the deal.
In February 1991, Mary Ann began working for Estes Homebuilding Co., run at the time by Bill Estes Jr. At the time she worked in the Rita Ranch area, land at one point owned by Howard Hughes, filmmaker and founder of Hughes Aircraft Co. (now Raytheon). She sold homes in three subdivisions, Rancho Antigua, Horizons at Rita Ranch and Sunrise Meadows. Around 2001, KB Homes bought Estes Homebuilding Co. and Mary Ann become an employee of KB Homes, and sold homes in the Madera and Arizona Sunset subdivisions.
In 2002, she retired and became a full-time volunteer and activist. The same year, Calvin Baker, superintendent of the Vail School District, came to Mary Ann for assistance in getting what is now called Mary Ann Cleveland Way made into a public road.
At the time it was an utility easement, not open to the public, with room for only one maintenance vehicle to check utility lines. The district wanted the road because children who lived in the Civano and Mesquite Ranch subdivisions were being bused to Old Vail Middle School by way of the Interstate 10, because there was no route for the buses without using the highway, which many thought was unsafe.
Mary Ann spent three and a half years working with Baker and a small citizens group that campaigned vigorously to have the dirt path turned into a road. She arranged for monthly meetings at Ward 4 Councilwoman Shirley Scott’s office, which were attended by representatives of local and state governments.
After years of campaigning for a safe route for the school kids, and also to connect the communities of Rita Ranch and Vail, the Tucson City Council voted to fund the road. Councilwoman Shirley Scott and Superintendent Baker proposed the name Mary Ann Cleveland Way to honor the person who did the most to get this road built.
On Dec. 6, 2004, the mayor and city council passed Ordinance No. 10090 naming the road Mary Ann Cleveland Way. It was built in 2005 and a ribbon-cutting ceremony and official opening took place on May 23, 2005. That day there was a small parade to honor Cleveland, attended by many dignitaries. Mayor Bob Walkup proclaimed May 23, 2005, to be Mary Ann Cleveland Day.
Artist Sterling Ford was hired by the Tucson Department of Transportation to do artwork along Mary Ann Cleveland Way. He was assisted by students at Cienega and Empire high schools. The result was metal artwork in the shape of plants and animals at spots along the length of the road.
Cleveland now volunteers for the Rancho Antigua Homeowners Association and St. Rita’s in the Desert Catholic Church. She also spends much of her time with her eight grandchildren: Jonathan, Tomas, Colleen, Tanya, Eric, Andrew, Shawn Jr., Caitlin, and a great-granddaughter, Ella.
Note: Mary Ann Cleveland Way is sometimes called “Mac” by locals in Vail.
Special thanks to Terri Starks, Eurice Odie Master and Mike of PAC Promotions.
Interview with Mary Ann Cleveland on Feb. 4, 2014.
Email from Calvin Baker, superintendent of the Vail School District.
Tucson City Ordinance # 10090 (Passed, Adopted and Approved on Dec. 6, 2004).
City of Tucson Proclamation: Mary Ann Cleveland Day on May 23, 2005.
Thelma Grimes, “Cienega, Empire students get into metalized art project,” Vail Sun, Dec. 5, 2007.
Oscar Abeyta, “City Agrees to Build $3.5M Cienega Road,” Tucson Citizen, unknown date.