Yesterday in Wasilla, Alaska, Mary Mielke’s family celebrated her continued spiritual life and her physical life on earth. She was my best friend and sister. We were railroad kids living next to the MKT switching yard and roundhouse where we heard thumps and bumps that reverberated in the walls of the house and startled us awake at night. Mary and I didn’t mind, but the noise drove our mother crazy.
Mary and I took turns practicing. Her piano specialties were Chopin, Kitten on the Keys and Beer Barrel Polka, and my violin specialties were scritches and scratches until I got the hang of it. Mary taught me the basics of playing the piano after each of her lessons, so although I am self-taught, I was first Mary-taught. For many years, Mary played the piano and organ for her Pioneer Bible Church, but nixed the Beer Barrel Polka.
Mary always had a cat wrapped around her neck or under her arm, she hatched eggs in her electric skillet, she nursed an injured fawn and she nursed all animals, finally graduating to people. She delivered a baby at the front door of Bethany Hospital where she was working as a medical technologist.
Mary nursed, tugged and pulled me through college chemistry while we both prayed that I would just pass. I did, but she was embarrassed because she made all A’s in organic, qualitative and quantitative analysis chemistries. As a certified and gifted medical technologist, she became assistant to a well known clinical pathologist. That era of her career ended when handsome David Mielke swept her away to California.
She became a master party giver for all kinds of groups including many of her Sunday school classes for which she bought a soft serve ice cream machine and a pop corn machine. Her garage is stuffed (I do mean stuffed) with Christian education materials she purchased to make her classes more fun plus boxes of prizes for attendance and certain learning goals.
One of the amazing things is that Mary lived to be eighty-five since she drove like a wild woman, wearing out a set of tires a year (sometimes less). I counted 39 hairpin curves between Mary’s mountain ranch and the main highway, and most of them have Mary’s tire marks in perpetuity. In the high school band hall, one of Ivan’s friends asked him if he had seen his mother next to her car down a certain ravine. Well, he hadn’t but the rescue people found her. Car was a little messed up, but Mary ‘s guardian angel saw to it that she didn’t have a scratch. We think she slowed down on that curve.
Sometimes Mary’s hurry in driving was to get to a sale at the Toy Store in Placerville before other people got there for the sale. Her grandkids were the light of her life, and her closets were stuffed with boxes waiting to be mailed.
Mary was fun, and she was good, and she was generous. She was bookkeeper for her church and a master of casseroles and apple pies. She was faithfully cared for by her boys, and isn’t here to say thank you, so I say it for her. Good job, faithful servants and children.