Mary Ann Wertzbaugher (1925 - 2017)

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  • - Corey Riley
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Mary Ann Wertzbaugher, 92, died on Sept. 28, 2017, at Providence Medical Center after a short illness.
Mary Ann grew up in El Monte, Calif., with an older brother and sister. She was exposed early-on to a life of adventure as the close-knit trio roamed widely through the farmlands of the San Gabriel Valley; passing 200 African Lions at Gay's Lion Farm on their walk to school and visiting the jungle gardens at Baldwin Park where they watched the filming of Tarzan movies in the early '30s.
In 1943, she worked at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif., along side her mother and sister assembling B-17s and A-26 Invaders. It was at Douglas she met Orville Wertzbaugher, a professional athlete and entertainer who ran morale programs for 50,000 defense workers.
She married Orville in 1944, and when the Army assigned him to morale and physical therapy work, Mary Ann joined his weight-training/body building regimen. They soon teamed up to form a professional acrobatic act under the stage name ""The Moniques."" By '49, two years after the birth of their son, she was winning weightlifting championships in Southern California.
The couple's shared sense of adventure led them to Anchorage, Alaska, in '51. While always maintaining day jobs, they performed their acrobatic act at local nightclubs and civic affairs and eventually opened the state's first athletic club in '53. Mary Ann made frequent TV appearances in those years on Channel 2 promoting women's exercise programs.
In 1958, Mary Ann volunteered to run a campaign office to promote the Statehood referendum as well as candidates Bill Egan, Ralph Rivers and Ernest Gruening. All won, thus beginning a long passion for supporting liberal candidates and progressive causes.
It was again adventure that led Mary Ann to support the family's homesteading efforts in '60, pioneering the Burma Road and building a log cabin near Nine Mile Hill on the Iditarod Trail. After homesteading, the family returned to Anchorage and she started a long career with the Alaska Court System, retiring as Small Claims Clerk in '80 and moving with Orville to Canoe Lake near Palmer, Alaska.
In retirement, Mary Ann and Orville traveled extensively. She particularly enjoyed visiting her son Jerry and family sailing in the Chesapeake Bay and Caribbean.
After Orville died in 2006, Mary Ann enjoyed annual family reunion trips with her four granddaughters and families, she enjoyed a 60th reunion drive over the Alcan in '11 and she enjoyed her six great-grandchildren.
Mary Ann is survived by a son; two daughters-in-law; four granddaughters; and six great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life is planned for June 25, 2018, at the home of Jerry and Nancy Wertzbaugher, 1111 West Twelfth Avenue, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Published in Anchorage Daily News from June 10 to June 11, 2018