Born September 2, 1919, to William Logan Helton and Mary Olive (Hileman) Helton at the farm home in Union County, Illinois, eight miles east of Anna. Mary's schooling began in a one-room country schoolhouse known as the McLane School, where getting there and back required four miles of walking. Later she graduated from Anna-Jonesboro Community High School with the class of 1938 and shortly afterwards entered Draughon's Business College in Paducah, Kentucky. Upon certification in 1940, she began working as a legal secretary and in that same year met Don Harry Clark of Paducah and they were married on Christmas Eve the following year -- seventeen days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II.
By the end of 1942 with her husband in training for the military and with a baby daughter (Donna Marie, born October 21), Mary found it necessary to return to the farm for a short while. The following year back in Paducah, a son (James Paul Clark) was born November 21, 1943. Low-income housing had been made available and mother and children managed to hold together until the end of the war and the father's return from Europe in October 1945. Somewhat over four years later -- December 1949 -- Mary's husband took a "temporary" traveling job that lasted for the next forty-six years until his retirement in 1981.
During these years (which required moving to Charlotte, N.C., in 1952 and to Ames, Iowa, in 1955), Mary continued to work off and on as a legal secretary. Her last position before retirement in 1974 was secretary to the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, The Honorable Theodore G. Garfield.
Two years later on Mary's 57th birthday, she registered for entry as a freshman at Iowa State University and in May 1983 she received a B.A. degree as an English major, thus realizing a life-long dream of receiving a college education. (There had been no funds for college in the Depression days of the thirties even though a tuition scholarship had been awarded her in 1934).
Woven into the fabric of Mary's life along with family, schooling, working has been a desire and an effort "to be somebody" and to make a difference where she can. This has led to involvement and volunteer work of many kinds including the following:
Serving as Cub Scout den mother, Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher, Vacation Bible School teacher; as a volunteer for American Red Cross Appalachia Committee, Mary Greeley Hospital Auxillary committee, for refugee resettlement, tutor of Vietnamese children, work with international students at ISU, sponsor of a Korean student who lived in her home for a while. She has also served on various boards including YWCA, UCCM, Mother to Mother (for low income mothers) and Shalom Task Force.
As a quilter Mary, made a section of the peace banner that was taken to Washington D.C. on the 40th anniversary of the bomb drop on Hiroshima, and in 1994 she made a panel for the Names Quilt for a local family's memorial to their son who died in 1993 of AIDS. Additionally, Mary continues to be much involved with work in the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Ames, where she has been a member for forty years. She presently serves as fourth term elder and has through the years served in all areas of the church's work. Her outside interests include reading, quilting, gardening, button collecting and travelling.
The brick to be placed in the Plaza of Heroines with the imprint of Mary's name was given in her honor by her family:
Daughter: Donna Marie (Clark) Gulliver, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Son: James Paul Clark, Ames, Iowa
Husband: Don H. Clark, Ames, Iowa
Grandchildren: Debra Kay Gulliver, Atlanta, Georgia; David Brian Gulliver, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Sean Paul Clark, Minneapolis, Minnesota; James Robert Clark, Greensboro, North Carolina; Kyla Marie Clark, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Honored by: Her Family
Section: C Row: 21