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MARY RUTH CENTER
Mary Ruth Center was born August 29, 1937 to William Andrew Center and Thelma Lucille Jenkins of Rich Hill, Missouri. Her mother died 1 week later leaving Mary to be cared for and supported by her maternal grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Jenkins. As a child she was baptized October 1937, confirmed into Christian Faith 1950 in the Methodist Church and Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in May 1956.
Her father worked for the Missouri Pacific Rail Road and was seldom around. He died when she was 10 years old. At the age of 12, Mary met a beautiful, caring lady who played piano for the tap-dancing class, Bess Shafer who became Mary’s English teacher in High School and in Mary’s words “my beacon of hope and mother image for which I dreamed”. In future years Bess invited Mary to travel with her and be her chauffer.
While in High School Mary found herself her grandmothers caretaker along with Uncle Jay who had returned home from WWll. In 1955, Uncle Jay took Mary to Kansas City to find a place to live and a job working at Sears Roebuck. It was at Sears where Mary’s circle of friends would begin when she met Naomi Wurdeman who would invite Mary to be a part of her family on weekends and holidays. She formed a close bond with them that still remains today.
1958 she enrolled at Central Missouri States University and added to the circle of close friends when she met Louise Nowland her college roommate, who became a lifelong friend and with whom she made many trips and future visits with her family in St. Louis. Mary received her Bachelor of Science in Education degree from CMSU in 1961 and her Masters from Kansas University in 1970.
Upon arriving in Olathe to teach, the circle of friendship grows to include the Voigts family. While looking for a place to live, a teacher Helen Voigts invited Mary to stay with her and Myron until she could find a place to live because sons Bruce and Jim were grown and gone from home. Jim tells me his mother wanted a girl when he was born and his mother saw an opportunity to have a daughter. Mary never left but instead became a lasting part of another family. While in Olathe, Mary taught at Milbrooke and Santa Fe Trail Jr. Highs and Olathe North High School.
While teaching at Santa Fe Trail she became friends with the Ollenberger family and claimed Jamie and Keith as grandchildren adding to her family. Her circle of friends includes many teachers and students along with friends in Beta Sigma Phi, Redeemer Lutheran Church, the Book Club, Bridge Buddies, Class of 1955, and Villas at Black Hawk.
Two quotes found in Mary’s file:
Dr. Charles H. Spurgeon, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts not on marble.” Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
C.E. Lawrence, “Learning is a lifetime journey… growing older merely adds experience to knowledge and wisdom to curiosity.”
Memorials can be made in Mary’s memory to a Charity of your choice or to Redeemer Lutheran Church, 920 S. Alta Lane, Olathe KS. 66061
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