Mary Gazetas was born in West Vancouver and grew up around water and small boats. She studied fine arts at UBC and later entered the design program at the National Theatre School in Montreal, graduating in 1968. She lived in Alberta for 11 years, where she was involved in theatre and film design and printmaking; she also worked as an instructor in visual arts and as a festival planner. She settled in Richmond in 1983. Gazetas is a mother, grandmother, tennis player and founding director of the Richmond Fruit Tree Project, which is involved in the operation of two community-based farming projects.