Readers of The Joplin Globe have been blessed recently with two articles by two of the area's best writers, both selecting the passing of a Joplin treasure as their topic.
Carol Stark, Joplin Globe editor, and Carolyn Trout, monthly contributor to the newspaper, have outdone themselves with their eulogies to a remarkable woman, Mary DeArmond, who died just short of her 98th birthday. Without any attempt to compete with these two ladies, here are a few of my memories of Mary, written here because of my feeling that not to comment on her passing, as close as we were, would be to dishonor her memory.
I first met Mary when she enrolled in my English class at Missouri Southern. At the age of 60, Mary stood out in the midst of the 18 and 19 year olds surrounding her, who, in deference to her age, referred to her with "maam'ng" and "'Mrs.'ng," but within days were joking and laughing with her. That is the way Mary was, open to everyone and critical of no one, unless it was someone with power abusing someone without. She could not abide a bully, and when she encountered one, she acted with "Wouldn't your mother be proud of you?" That usually would solve the problem. She was of course an excellent student, always prepared and ready for class. Every teacher longs to have Marys in their classes.
Upon receiving her master's degree, she accepted a position on the faculty of MSSU and became my colleague; she loved teaching and stayed at it until her handicap, a severe case of macular degeneration, led to her retirement.
I had a student in one of my classes who suffered from macular degeneration at the early age of 21. He was enrolled in English 102, a class designed to teach the use of the reference materials available in the library, and how to use them in writing a research paper. His handicap made completing this task difficult. The library had a reading machine, designed to help people with this problem, in essence a large magnifying glass. It was very popular and usually had a line waiting to use it.
When I went over to Mary's office and explained the problem, she said, "Oh, that poor young man! I'll buy one for the library."
"Mary, do you know how much these things cost?" I asked.
"Of course!" she responded. "I have one in my living room."
I went downstairs to the vice president for business affairs, explained the problem to him and asked if the college would approve the deal and split the cost with Mary? "Absolutely," he said.
When I explained to her what the VP had said, she replied, "OK, I will buy two!"
I asked her what kind of inscription she wanted on them, something simple such as "Donated by Prof. Mary DeArmond." Or something more elaborate?
"I want nothing," she said. And despite my strong urging, she remained adamant.
Missouri Southern planned a retirees reception on May 29 to honor retired faculty and staff. Mary wanted very much to go and asked my wife and me to take her. Having been a member of the faculty for 30 years, I looked forward to taking her. My long career there afforded me the opportunity to observe her entire academic career, and to help her celebrate it. Her death one week before the event deprived us all of the opportunity.
On June 9, a dozen or so of Mary's friends met for dinner. To honor "Queen" Mary, all the women wore tiaras. How appropriate.
I miss her terribly and do not look forward to life without her. Tonight, I will say my goodbye to my dear friend with a long, slow drink of her favorite Maker's Mark, and remember all the good times.
Goodbye, dear friend.
Henry "Bud" Morgan is a retired MSSU English professor.