EDINA, Minn. — Former Forest City, Iowa, resident Mary Ames, 85, of Edina, MN, died on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, at St. Therese of New Hope, MN, from complications of a stroke.
Mary was born on Oct. 28, 1930, in Nevada, IA, the daughter of Hollie and Irene (McCauley) Shaffer. She graduated from Swaledale High School and then attended what is now the University of Northern Iowa and North Iowa Area Community College. For a few years, Mary taught in primary schools in northern Iowa.
In the mid-1950s, she moved to Forest City. During the Forest City years, she worked for the family furniture store, the local high school and refugee settlement programs. Mostly, she was a strong and loving mother to her children and an optimistic and energetic presence in the lives of her many friends.
In the mid-1980s, Mary moved to the Twin Cities, where she was a long-time parishioner at St. Richard’s Catholic Church in Richfield. She worked for Medica for many years, retiring in 2008 at the age of 77.
While at Medica, Mary became known as the “bunny lady.” She cajoled and encouraged her colleagues to donate a toy bunny to be distributed to needy children during Easter time. She felt all kids needed a bunny to hug, even if their family couldn’t provide one. For her efforts, she was featured on local TV news. The annual “bunny drive” is an ongoing effort at Medica and other local companies.
But it was Habitat for Humanity that fully activated Mary’s volunteerism gene. Through St. Richard’s parish, she raised money and organized several Habitat “builds” in the Twin Cities. She used her vacation time and money to build houses in Tennessee and Alabama (in the wake of Hurricane Katrina) and in Northern Ireland, Poland, Thailand and Botswana. In its 2006-07 Annual Report, the Twin Cities chapter recognized Mary’s devotion to the families sheltered by Habitat. “Every kid needs a kitchen table where they can do homework.”
Mary was proud of her Irish heritage. In 2005, she organized a family reunion in Dublin that attracted about 30 family members from eight U.S. states. A Mass was said for Mary at St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin City Center on Saturday.
Mary is survived by her son, Joe (Linda), of Irvine, CA; daughters Jean of New Hope, MN and Anne (Tom) of Minneapolis; grandchildren Tony (Sharayah), Callie, Mitchell, Shannon, Jack, Paul; great-grandson Carter and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be on Monday, Oct. 24, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Gill Brothers Funeral Home, 5801 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. After the visitation, the family invites Mary’s friends to toast “a life well lived” at Houlihan’s, 6601 Lyndale Ave. S.
On Tuesday, Oct. 25, St. Richard’s Catholic Church, 7540 Penn Avenue S. in Richfield, will be open at 9:30 a.m. for visitation. The funeral Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. with lunch to follow. Burial will be Tuesday, 4 p.m., at Elmwood-St. Joseph’s Cemetery, 1224 S. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA.
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