Maribeth K. Conkin, 95, died Aug. 25, 2014, at her home.
Ms. Conkin was born in Virginia on May 13, 1919, the oldest child of Carroll T. Knight (d. 1986) and Susan Plummer Knight (d. 1956). Her brother, Robert (d. 2009), was born in 1922 and her sister, Jean, was born in 1925.
Ms. Conkin grew up on the family farm in Virginia, where her father grew corn and soybeans and raised livestock. She attended a one-room school house until 9th grade, when Ms. Conkin went to Virginia High School in town. After graduating first in her class, Ms. Conkin went on to attend Culver Stockton College in Canton, Missouri, where she majored in English literature and secondary education. She was a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.
Following her graduation from Culver Stockton in 1941, Ms. Conkin taught English at the high school in Pana. Several years later, Ms. Conkin took graduate courses in English at University of Wisconsin. She went on to receive her master's in English literature from the University of Illinois in 1951. While studying for her master's, Ms. Conkin was a graduate assistant in the English department. It was there she met her future husband, George Smith Conkin (d. 1977), a fellow graduate student. They married on June 11, 1949, and had their first child, William Knight "Bill" in June 1950. The Conkins moved to Royal Oak, Michigan, in 1953, when Mr. Conkin joined Chrysler Corporation. While in Michigan, Ms. Conkin taught English at Wayne State University. In 1955, they moved to New Castle, Indiana, where Mr. Conkin became personnel director at the Chrysler Plant. In 1960, Ms. Conkin and her husband had their second child, Susan Elizabeth "Beth."
Ms. Conkin was active in local philanthropic and literary organizations. She was past president of Tri Kappa, Saturday Club, Altruistic Literary Club, a member of the Henry County Library Board and past Chair of the Women's Division of Community Fund Campaign. Ms. Conkin was the first woman to serve on the Board of Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of New Castle, of which she was a member for over 50 years. She was also a member of the Henry County Historical Society and supported the Salvation Army, Red Cross and American Heart Association. The Conkins shared a love of antiques, progressing from collectors to dealers. They also enjoyed gardening, working in their yard, playing bridge and attending the high school basketball games. In March 1977, Ms. Conkin lost her husband of almost 30 years. As a young widow, Ms. Conkin continued to maintain a home for Beth on Hawthorne Road and remained active in the community, adding Planned Parenthood to the organizations to which she donated her time.
In 1992, Ms. Conkin moved to Indianapolis, where she lived at Summer Trace Retirement Community for three years, before returning to New Castle. At the age of 83, Ms. Conkin moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to be near her daughter, Beth, and her family (husband, Bill Gallagher, and children Joe, Marihelen and Tom). Ms. Conkin lived at The Deupree House independent retirement community until October 2011. Ms. Conkin was active in her grandchildren's lives, attending their music recitals and sporting events, playing Scrabble and babysitting. She was an avid reader of historical literature and maintained her interest in finance and investment strategies by reading the Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine and other financial publications.
After suffering a minor stroke in 2012, Ms. Conkin moved in with her daughter's family, where she lived until her death. During those years, Ms. Conkin enjoyed hearing about the activities of her grandchildren and being a part of her daughter's family. Although no longer able to play cards or read novels, Ms. Conkin developed an interest in bird-watching. With feeders outside her bedroom window and front porch, she enjoyed watching the cardinals, robins, sparrows, woodpeckers and starlings. Caretakers Doris Smith and Sheila Hauke were instrumental in making Ms. Conkin comfortable and cared for.
Ms. Conkin is survived by her son, Bill Conkin (Sarah Perez Hernandez de Conkin); her daughter, Beth (Bill Gallagher); grandchildren, Ben Conkin, Andrew Conkin, Joe Gallagher, Marihelen Gallagher and Tom Gallagher; sister, Jean Yaple (Bill Yaple); and nieces and nephews, Steve Knight, Susan Knight, Sharon Knight, Rob Knight, Matt Yaple and Carol Yaple. Ms. Conkin was preceded in death by her mother and father; her husband; and her brother. Over the course of her life, Ms. Conkin shared her love of books through her work as a library volunteer in every community in which she lived. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the public library of your choice.
Ms. Conkin will be cremated and interred next to the cremains of her late husband at South Mound Cemetery in New Castle, Indiana. In accordance with her wishes, the family will host a reception to celebrate Ms. Conkin's life later this fall in New Castle.
Published in Jacksonville Journal-Courier on Aug. 28, 2014