Mary Alyce (Vanderford) Mullens, peacefully finished her earthly journey on March 10, 2018 at the Homestead House in Beatrice, Nebraska and entered eternal rest at the age of 97 years, 5 months and 23 days. Mary was born in Peru, Nebraska on September 15, 1920 to John Riley and Bertha “Bettie” Elizabeth (Henning) Vanderford. She was the youngest of seven children and spent her childhood on the family farm near Peru. When Mary was five years old the family moved to their new home on a farm four and a half miles south of Peru. Mary attended Peru Training School and graduated from Peru Prep High School at age 16 after skipping the seventh grade. Mary Alyce loved school from the very beginning and always knew she would be a teacher someday. She enjoyed babysitting her nieces and nephews and instilled her love of music into them. Many of her nieces and nephews went on to take music lesson and even teach music and have given Mary credit for influencing their music aspirations. Mary could play the piano, violin, viola and saxophone, but her favorite musical instrument was the violin. She began playing the violin in the 4th grade and eventually was the first chair in the college orchestra. Mary received her Two-year school teaching endorsement from Peru State Teachers College and began teaching in Lebanon, Nebraska at age 18.
In 1945 while teaching elementary music in Curtis, NE, Mary Alyce met Raymond Edwin Mullens, the new elementary principal. They did team teaching together in the Junior High. It was not love at first sight by any means, but over time a friendship developed and blossomed into a loving relationship and they knew they were meant for one another. Mary and Ray were united in marriage on August 25th, 1950 in Omaha at the home of their former minister they had in Curtis. Two children were born to this union, Marlene Rae and Gregg Kent. In 1950 and 1951 Mary and Ray owned and operated Sun Ray Motel and gas station in Auburn, Nebraska while Mary taught part time in Nemaha, Nebraska. They decided the motel business was not their “cup of tea” so they sold the motel and moved back to Bassett, Nebraska to teach once again.
Mary finished her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in music education from Peru State Teachers College in the late 1950’s by attending summer school. Her teaching career spanned over 35 years, touching the lives of thousands of students by contributing to their learning goals and potential. Many students still to this day have remembered Mary for her dedication to teaching, her enthusiasm, her patience, the musical programs she produced and her talent on the violin.
They can remember how quiet her study halls were so they could do their school work. She wrote and produced two original Christmas operettas, complete with music score, song, verse and costumes. The operettas were titled, “The Old Woman in the Shoe” and “The Children of the Forest”.
Mary taught school in Lebanon, Holdrege, Curtis, Nemaha, Bassett, Ewing, Lewellen, Holmesville and Diller, Nebraska. The only grade levels that Mary did not teach were kindergarten and second grades. She preferred third grades and the seventh and eighth grades.
While teaching music in Lewellen, Nebraska, the school had not had music or a band for a number of years-Mary got to work, rolled up her sleeves, took the band uniforms to get them repaired and cleaned and then she took the broken band instruments, got them inventoried and fixed up.
The next step was teaching music lessons to the students-within a year she had a band, by the second year, she placed first superior for chorus and concert band at music contest.
Mary always said teaching was never boring or dull-it was always interesting with new challenges and opportunities and that sometimes she learned things along with her students. She loved to see a child learn and felt that one never ever stops learning and she felt she never stopped teaching whether it was inside or outside the classroom.
Mary was baptized in the Congregational Church of Curtis, Nebraska in the late 1940’s. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Beatrice and was known for baking delicious holiday sugar cookies for coffee hour at the church. She attended the church women’s club and belonged to NSEA (Nebraska State Education Association) and the NEA (National Education Association).
Mary loved her violin and over the years played for many weddings, church and civic functions and other public events. Mary Alyce was a Christian and lived for and believed in God with all of her heart. She used to say, (God’s in his heaven-All’s right with the world) she did not complain about many things, but believed everything will work out in God’s heavenly plan, even the negative and bad things that occur-for reasons we cannot understand-only God knows and is in control, period. She also used say, “if you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all.”
She was a loving and devoted wife to Ray and loving mother to her children, Marlene and Gregg. A loving mother-in-law to her daughter-in-law, Theresa, and to her granddaughter, Amanda, a loving grandma. Beginning in 1967 to 1970, Mary spent summers sharing the care of her mother in Auburn, Nebraska with her other siblings. Even before Mary got married, she would spend summers in Auburn with her mother helping with the housework and gardening when she wasn’t in summer school. Mary demonstrated her Christian love and values with family, friends, work associates, students, relatives and neighbors by setting a good example and emulating God’s Christian love for everyone.
Mary is also remembered for her great sense of humor, great wit, generosity, thoughtfulness for others and teaching others to learn. She was willing to help people at bingo with their cards if they needed help. If she was participating in crafts and people needed a hand, she was helping them; teaching was in her blood. Mary Alyce enjoyed playing bridge and canasta in her younger years. Later on she enjoyed all card games including rummy, pitch, and solitaire. Other favorite hobbies were word search puzzles, crosswords, quilting, playing bingo, music and baking, especially delicious sugar cookies, dinner rolls, homemade cinnamon rolls and fruitcakes at Christmas. She loved her ice cream, cookies and candy, especially chocolate and a good cup of coffee. She was noted for her delicious Thanksgiving turkey and sage dressing too.
Quilting brought her special joy she said, because she felt a sense of accomplishment when she made something pretty and useful from scraps of material. One year she sewed together seven quilts. She made a very special quilt for her granddaughter, Amanda. She also collected penguins of all shapes and sizes and had over 60 of them in her room at Homestead House.
Mary Alyce and Ray were inseparable in their retirement years and enjoyed gardening together and working on small projects around the house. They even did baking and cooking together with Ray frosting cookies, chopping and peeling apples, potatoes and other vegetables and Mary carrying out the meal preparations. After Ray passed away on October 15, 2000, Mary was very lonely, but she made new friends and acquaintances at church and at the Beatrice Senior Center. Mary and Ray were blessed to be able to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on August 25, 2000 with family and close friends. In, July 2009 Mary went to live in assisted living at the Homestead House in Beatrice after her health began to decline and she was afraid to live alone. On April 17, 2015 Mary sustained a severe fall and fractured her left femur, but made a miraculous recovery. In the past six months or so, her vision was very impaired due to macular degeneration and she was unable to enjoy cards, TV or bingo like she wanted to do. Her body was becoming tired and in January of this year she was placed on hospice care with AseraCare of Beatrice. On Monday, March 5th, Mary began the journey to her heavenly home.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents John Riley and Bertha Elizabeth; husband Raymond “Ray”, six siblings and spouses; Austin (Connie), Roy (Nellie), Everett (Nora), Leone (Hiney), Sterling “Jack” (Mildred), and Irene (Johnnie), and other family and friends.
Those left to cherish Mary Alyce’s memory are her daughter, Marlene Rae Mullens of Lincoln; son, Dr. Gregg Kent Mullens and wife Theresa of Greenfield, MA; granddaughter, Amanda Marie Mullens of Crofton, Maryland; numerous nieces and nephews, other relatives and many friends.
A Celebration Of Life will be held at 10:30 A.M., on Friday March 16, 2018 at First Presbyterian Church of Beatrice with Rev. Dr. John Duling and Chaplain Sharon Schuster officiating. A family prayer service will be held at 10:15 A.M. at the church. Burial will be in the London Cemetery of rural Auburn on Friday at 2:00 P.M. The body will lie in state at the Fox Funeral Home from 8:00 A.M. until 9:00 P.M. Thursday and then at the church one hour preceding the service on Friday. The family will meet and greet friends and relatives at the funeral home on Thursday evening from 6-7 PM. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established to the London Cemetery, AseraCare Hospice of Beatrice or to the family for future designation. www.foxfuneralhome.net Fox Funeral Home of Beatrice is in charge of arrangements.