Mary Stark was born in Utah in 1923. Her parents Peter and Dora McAlister moved from Utah with Mary's siblings John, Scott, and Dorothy to Portola, California. Mary shared many memories of her childhood, school years, and about life in Portola during the Great Depression. She had profound respect for her parents as they coped with the challenges they faced in a small town during that difficult period.
Mary assumed many family responsibilities as a child and a young girl, and her parents gave her every support and encouragement that was within their means to provide. She had piano lessons from an early age, and she became a proficient pianist. She played for her church and on many special occasions over the years. Mary's proficiency with music, and her love for it, bought pleasure to her family and others throughout her life.
Mary was also an excellent student, graduating first in her high school class. Because Mary was an outstanding student, she was given an unusual responsibility as a girl. Her father, Peter McAlister, was the treasurer for the Union of Rail Workers in Portola. As treasurer, he was responsible for monthly financial reports to the officers of the union. Since Peter was a "hands on person" with little patience for book work, he delegated this task to his young daughter Mary. It was a great source of pride to Mary and her parents that each time the officers reviewed the union books, they were found to be balanced and perfectly maintained.
After high school graduation in 1941, Mary moved to Sacramento to attend Sacramento City College. As usual, she was an excellent student but it was a challenge to survive on the meager allowance her family as able to provide. She has referred many times to making an evening meal of Ritz crackers.
Having graduated from Sacramento City College, Mary transferred to San Jose State where she majored in Spanish and continued her academic excellence. The friendships she made with other students in the boarding house where she lived lasted throughout her life. During her senior year, Mary began attending USO dances. At one of these dances she met a handsome young soldier, Erwin Stark, who was stationed at Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg. In August 1944, they married just before he was transferred to the European Theater. In May 1945, while the war was still on and her husband was in Europe, Mary gave birth to her first child, Douglas. When she was discharged from the hospital, she and her baby went to live with her parents in Stockton, California. After the war in Europe ended and her husband returned to the U.S., they continued living in Stockton.
Shortly after earning her B.A. degree in Spanish from the College of the Pacific, Mary was hired as a teacher at Stockton High School. Her husband worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad at night and attended College of the Pacific during the day. Mary and Erwin had a second child in 1951, Katherine. The family remained in Stockton for 10 years, while Erwin continued his studies and worked at the railroad.
In 1955, having completed his studies, Erwin was offered a teaching position at Placer High School in Auburn, whereupon the family moved. Erwin and Mary remained in Auburn for 55 years.
In Auburn, Mary raised her children and was active in a variety of community activities, including the Democratic Club, American Association of University Women, Navy League, Civic Affairs, the Assistance League, Daughters of the American Revolution, and one of the most rewarding involvements, her service on the Auburn Union Elementary School Board of Trustees. As a school board member for 16 years, she made many friends and enjoyed the respect and support of the community, school district staff, and fellow board members. As a result of her dedicated work, she was appointed as a member of the Delegate Assembly for the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and ultimately a term on the Board of Directors for CSBA. At the conclusion of her service, Mary was the guest of honor at a banquet attended by school, community, and state leaders.
After her retirement from school board work, Mary focused on supporting her grandchildren in the Sacramento area, managing the family rental business, and enjoying her neighbors and friends. She was an active member of a neighborhood walking group, and she prided herself on healthy eating and physical fitness; she could do 20 push-ups when she was 80 years old!
Mary is survived by her son and daughter-in-law Doug and Michele Stark; her daughter Katherine Luscutoff; four grandchildren: Eric Stark, Monica Stark, Adrienne Luscutoff, Alex Luscutoff; and three great-grandchildren: Jack, Mary, and Shane Stark.
A Celebration Of Life luncheon will be held in Lincoln near her last residence on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Family and close friends are encouraged to attend. Those wishing more details should contact email@example.com or leave a message for her at 916-835-8979. Reservations due by Feb. 28.
Published in Gold Country Media Newspapers on Feb. 26, 2014
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