Mary Lou Rich Goertzen died Oct. 20, 2020, at home in "the blue schoolhouse" in Deadwood, Ore. She was 91.
She was born Aug. 2, 1929, to Willis Rich and Hulda Penner Rich, the oldest of four siblings, along with James, Carol and Martha Suzanne (known as Mardy).
In 1934, Willis Rich became Bethel College's first director of public relations, so Mary Lou grew up as a "campus kid." Another strong tie to the college was Mary Lou's brother, Jim, the landscape architect largely responsible for the Green in the center of campus as it looks today.
Mary Lou married Ernie Goertzen, whom she met when they were students at Bethel College, on July 3, 1951. They were the parents of three children, David, Anya and Jonevan.
Ernie was severely injured in a car accident in 1961. He described this as "a turning point" and "a wake-up call," after which he and Mary Lou decided to "move forward with art work" full time.
In 1965, the family moved to Berkeley, Calif., where both Ernie and Mary Lou took art classes and began to create paintings and drawings. They sold these in art markets in Berkeley and Mill Valley and developed a local following.
During the Berkeley years, Ernie and Mary Lou became committed to the anti-Vietnam War movement, including hiding soldiers in their home who had decided to become conscientious objectors.
In 1975, Ernie and Mary Lou decided to move their family to the country and bought an old schoolhouse in Oregon's Coast Range.
Mary Lou is probably most widely known for her delicate pen-and-ink drawings with splashes of watercolor, of flowers, fruit and plants. In the mid-'70s, some of her art cards and prints sold at the New York Botanical Garden caught the attention of Jay Block, CEO of his family's company, Block China.
Block came himself from New York to Deadwood to talk Mary Lou into putting her designs on a Block China porcelain dishware series, in production from 1980-90.
Lap and Nap Quilts and Comforters, published in 2014, showcases Mary Lou's quilting and embroidery in 25 quilts she created between 1992 and 2013, many of them as a way of expressing her feelings of grief and loss following Ernie's death in 2004.
Mary Lou was preceded in death by her parents; her husband of 53 years, Ernie; and her siblings Carol and Jim. She is survived by her children David Goertzen, Deadwood, Anya Goertzen Lecuyer, Eugene, Ore., and Jonevan Goertzen, northern California; her grandson Colins Goertzen; and her sister Suzanne "Mardy" Rich Osborn, Fairbanks, Alaska; along with nieces, nephews, cousins (including Zona Galle and Dwight Platt, North Newton) and countless friends.
Mary Lou was buried next to Ernie on their Deadwood property, in a grave dug by neighbors (as was his), in a shroud she made herself, as she also did for him.
Memorials are Bethel College and Mennonite Central Committee.
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Published by The Kansan on Dec. 19, 2020.