Mary Louise Eliason, resident of Clarion for nearly 70 years, died on November 21, 2019 in Moraga,
California, where she had lived for the last 11 months. She was 90 years old.
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 11:00 AM at the United Church of
Christ Congregational, 121 Third Avenue Northwest, in Clarion, with Pastor Bill Kem officiating.
Visitation will be held Friday, January 24, 2020 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at Ewing Funeral Home, 1801
Central Avenue East in Clarion, and will continue one hour prior to services at the church on Saturday.
Mary was born on March 4, 1929, in Hampton Iowa, the second of three children born to Oscar and
Ruth Holmes, a young farm family with a grain and livestock operation southeast of Rowan, Iowa.
Mary Holmes grew up during the Great Depression, which severely affected the farming community
nationwide. Her parents, hard-working first generation immigrants from Sweden and England/Wales,
struggled but made a good home for their family. Her father built a large brick house and stately brick
barns, out-buildings, and livestock yards. Many meals were prepared with fresh fruits and vegetables
from the orchards and large garden on the acreage.
Mary received her primary and secondary education in the one-room country school house only a
short distance from the Holmes farm. From there she attended Rowan High School and graduated in
1947. Growing up on the farm, Mary read books, listened to the radio, attended movies at the Dows
and Clarion theaters, played games with her brothers, and became a lover of cats, always keeping a
colorful array of strays as pets.
She longed for an urban experience and chose to attend Drake University in Des Moines during the
post-WWII late 1940’s and early 1950’s. She loved the people and academic life but vividly
remembered how, in biology class, each student was required to participate in the dissection of a cat
cadaver! Needless to say, Mary did not thereafter choose science as her life’s endeavor.
After Drake she entered the working world in Clarion. She worked at the county assessor’s office
located in the basement of the Post Office. The Korean War was ongoing and the U.S. military draft
was still taking men into service. A young draftee, Bill Eliason, from a farm near Kanawha, was sitting
with other draftees on the hallway floor when he saw Mary walk by. He flirted with her but thought
he’d never see her again, as he was heading off to serve his required time. Two years later, after
returning to farm with his dad, he was at the Clarion Bowling Alley one night with friends. Lo and
behold, there was Mary! He struck up a conversation, scheduled a date and several years later, in
April, 1958, they were married at the Clarion Congregational Church. Following the service, they
embarked on their honeymoon in New York City, visiting Niagara Falls on the way. In NYC, they got a
full serving of city life, staying in Midtown, taking taxis, going to the theater, and enjoying dinner in
fine urban style. They both loved it, but Bill confessed later he snuck off to Queens one afternoon to
attend a car show halfway through!
Bill farmed at his home acreage near Kanawha, and had a farm home picked out where the
newlyweds would build a family. But Mary insisted on something few farm families did back then, or
even now. She insisted they live in Clarion and not on the farm. Being a very social person, she
wanted to be around people and walk to the grocery store, post office, a coffee shop, or restaurant. She wanted her kids to be able to walk to school. And she did not want to feel isolated. Bill agreed, and they started living at The Middleton Apartments in the northeast section. They moved three times before finally settling at their longtime home on 1st Avenue NE, a block from downtown, and three blocks from the elementary school.
Mary and Bill had identical twin boys, Tim and Jeff, in January, 1960. While the kids grew up, Mary
worked at various positions including the Methodist Church and later was a librarian at the Clarion
Library, a fulfilling job given her love of literature. She satisfied her spirit of adventure by taking
community college classes in French and literature, attending plays or musicals in Ames or Des
Moines, and by spearheading family trips to points far and wide. Always via automobile, the trips
enabled the family to see and experience the country. They involved excursions to Colorado, Kansas
City, Washington DC, Boston, Florida, Michigan, and Jackson Hole. Many fond memories resulted
from those travel experiences, as well as the family’s expanded perspective about history, geography
and culture. Mary and Bill were also members of the Clarion Country Club for many years, enjoying
playing golf and attending Club parties.
Jeff and Tim graduated from Clarion High School and went on to the University of Iowa. Mary and Bill
spent many weekends visiting and going to Iowa football games, solidifying their love of the
Hawkeyes. After college and grad school, the kids settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, which Mary
and Bill visited regularly over the years, enjoying California and the company of their four
grandchildren, Gaby, Nick, Maddie, and Ethan. In 1998, after their 40th wedding anniversary, Mary
and Bill traveled to Europe, primarily visiting England and Germany, an experience they truly relished.
Ten years after Bill’s 2004 passing, Mary sold the 1st Avenue house and moved to The Meadows,
where she resided among many friends and acquaintances. In 2018, she moved, at 89 years old, to
Moraga, California, to be near her sons and their families. There she was visited frequently by her
sons, daughters in law, Mary (Jeff) and Beth (Tim), and her four grandchildren, now in their twenties.
Mary lived a simple but fulfilling life. She dearly loved Iowa, its people, lifestyle and seasons. But she
also had the opportunity to see a little bit of the world outside her homeland. Mary had a very
distinct personality and fashionable style. She was openly expressive of her opinions and not afraid to
stand out from the crowd. She savored her 46 years with Bill, raising her kids, and spending time with
her immediate and extended family. She greatly cherished as well the many friends she had in Clarion
and beyond. Mary made a lasting impression on everyone she met. And she will be fondly remembered and missed.