Mary (Garst) Garst (1928 - 2014)

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Funeral Services for Mary Garst, 86, will be Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 at the American Legion Community Building in Coon Rapids with Charles Nixon as the Leader. Visitation will be Friday, Oct. 31 from 4 – 8 p.m. at Mary's Home, Southeast of Coon Rapids. Honorary bearers will be her sisters: Charlotte Harrison and Nancy Garst, Phyllis Durlam, Elaine Mason, Arlene Wanninger, Ruth Kenney-Randolph, Mary Ann Riley, Dusty Myers, Chirs Hennig and Marilyn Garst.
Mary, daughter of Warren, Jr. and Eleanor (Hubbard) Garst, was born March 25, 1928 in Des Moines. She joined three older siblings. The family moved to Jefferson where she started school. She continued her education at Monticello High School in St. Louis, Mo., where she graduated Valedictorian. Her great intelligence led her to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Carleton College in Minnesota where she later was awarded an honorary doctorate. In 1999 she received an outstanding alumni achievement award and attended her 65th class reunion in 2014.
In 1949 Mary was united in marriage with her second cousin Stephen Garst, son of Roswell Garst and his wife Elizabeth. After her husband graduated from Stanford the couple returned to his hometown Coon Rapids. They were the parents of six children. They often spent time in the woods along the Middle Raccoon River.
In the late 1960s, when her youngest child started school, Mary discovered feminism and entered the workforce. She became a highly successful manager of a 6,000-head Garst Company breeding beef herd, one of the first ever to be computerized. She insisted on performance testing, not show rings, as the basis for genetic selections. Mary served on state and national boards of the Simmental Association, was first female president of any state cattlemen's organization and was honored by the North American Cattle Breeders Association as Breeder of the Year. Mary retired in 2004 when the herd was sold.
Mary was an ardent and active Democrat. In the 1960s she served on the League of Women Voters committee on redistricting, passing a non-partisan plan that over 50 years later still serves as a model for other states.
Mary served on the Home State Bank board in Jefferson, with a hiatus during a six year term on the Chicago Federal Reserve Board, ultimately buying the bank where her father had been CEO. She guided the bank and its charitable foundation's support of the community and community projects. In 1998 she was awarded the Greene County Tower of Fame award for her state and national achievements and in recognition of her commitment to the community.
Later in her career Mary was tapped as one of the first women to serve on national boards including the Chicago Federal Reserve, Northwestern Bell Telephone, Burlington Northern Railroad and International Harvester. She proved herself a knowledgeable, long-term and respected board director.
Mary was also a valued director of many non-profit boards including Children and Family Services; state and national Planned Parenthood boards; ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Iowa, as board member, president and special solicitor; Iowa Commission on Economic Development; Science Center of Iowa; Carleton College; Drake University; area and regional Library Boards; Iowa Environmental Council and SOAR (Save Our Avian Resources).    
Mary supported many additional worthy causes and candidates. As a special project she has ensured that all Coon Rapids kids (current and future), no matter their income level, have access to a summer pool pass.  
Because she served as a role model, mentor and inspiration to her daughters and to countless other girls and women, Mary was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1981 and was honored to have a chapter in Louise Noun's book "More Strong Minded Women".
After the death of her husband in 2004, Mary, her five daughters and her sister-in-law created a nonprofit land trust Whiterock Conservancy to protect 5,000 acres of the Middle Raccoon River valley landscape. This deed transfer is probably the largest private land gift ever made in the state. Whiterock is restoring the landscape back to native oak savanna and prairie; modeling sustainable ag practices; hosting family reunions, event and nature programming; and building a world class backcountry trail system for mountain-bikers, marathoners and equestrians. Mary insisted on low-powered electric carts for the elderly and parents of small children.
Mary's favorite occupation was reading. Other hobbies included bridge, travel, symphony and opera music, Christmas caroling, swimming, IPTV, cinema, watching Michael Jordan, playing golf and watching tennis. In recent years Mary and other widowed Democrats have been in an informal club with the goal of visiting every state park in Iowa. Mary is also a longstanding member of a Powell Recovery women's support group, as well as, many book and bridge clubs over the years.
Mary died peacefully at her home Sunday, October, 19, 2014, deep in the woods she and her family loved south east of Coon Rapids several days after she chose to stop taking her heart medications. She was 86 years of age.  Mary donated her brain to Harvard's NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) project for schizophrenia research.
Preceding her in death are her parents; husband; and siblings Charlotte Harrison and Tom Garst.
Mary is survived by her six children Elizabeth Garst (Darwin Pierce) of Coon Rapids; Edward Garst of West Des Moines; Sarah Garst (Jeff O'Donnell) of West Des Moines; Rachel Garst of Des Moines; Kate Garst (Leland Searles) of Des Moines and Jennifer Garst (Steve Libbey) of Ames; six grandchildren Reuben Garst (Janae Hill) of Bloomfield, Colo.; Luis 'Quique', Ana and Helen Garst formerly of Coon Rapids currently of Des Moines; and Nora and Owen Trampe of Des Moines; sister Nancy Garst of Madison, Wisc.; many cousins, in-laws, nieces, nephews, admirers and friends.
Mary's family wishes to express their gratitude for your kindness and invites you to join them for lunch and fellowship at the American Legion Community Building after the ceremony.
Mary particularly thanks her new friends, hospice nurse, Jill Namanny, RN, and her assistant, Clarissa Kelly for their recent support and care.

Published in AUDUBON COUNTY ADVOCATE JOURNAL from Oct. 24 to Oct. 31, 2014