McCrabb: Monroe woman, 103, ‘truly loves to be with people’

When your honoree is 103 years old and has been a member of your civic organization for 66 years, you have to create a worthy award for her.

That’s what faced the Middletown International Soroptimist Club.

Last week, Mary Maurer was presented the inaugural Lifetime Outstanding Soroptimist Award during the last meeting of the year until the fall.

The announcement was a surprise, well, until club President Gayle Martz started reading Maurer’s biography. She was the only one in the room who joined the organization in 1958.

“When we give an award we say a few words, then blah, blah, blah,” Martz said. “Once we got to the point where we talked about her years, it was obvious. She was shocked, but it wasn’t dramatic.”

Maurer joined the organization because of its mission: providing women and girls with access to education and training to achieve economic empowerment.

“We need all the help we can get,” Maurer said with a hearty laugh during the phone interview. “We’re a little more timid than men. We help them out when we can.”

Public service is in Maurer’s DNA. Her mother volunteered with the Safety Council and was a member of the Eastern Stars, while her father was an auxiliary police officer and member of the Elks.

Maurer served as executive director of the Middletown Area Girl Scout Council and assistant executive director of the Great Rivers Girl Scout Council until she retired in 1986.

She served on numerous boards and committees, including board chair at Ohio Living Mount Pleasant in Monroe where she has lived since 1995.

“She truly loves to be with people,” said Martz, a retired Monroe elementary school teacher.

In 1997, concerned that not enough young people were volunteering, she established the Mary Maurer Volunteer of the Year Award through the Middletown Community Foundation that honors volunteers between the ages of 30 and 50. The winner receives $500 that is donated to a charity of their choice.

Martz said Maurer attends every Soroptimist meeting, and has held every officer position. She’s the club’s parliamentarian.

“Her mind is sharp as a tack,” Martz said. “She’s a very important part of the club.”

Maurer was relayed what Martz said about her mind. She said she’s “a little slower” and “can’t recall names” like she could when she was 100.

“Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to remember a name,” she said.

Oh the struggles of being 103.

She was born March 13, 1921 to parents William and Carrie Maurer at Middletown Hospital, four years after it opened. Her two brothers and one sister are deceased.

She graduated from Middletown High School in 1939 and has kept a record of her classmates. At the 70th class reunion, Maurer was joined by eight classmates.

If the 85th class reunion was held this year, Maurer probably would be the only attendee.

Maurer never married or had children. She was engaged once, but her fiancé, James Gatewood III, was killed in 1945 during World War II as a member of the U.S. Air Force. He left behind a heartbroken 24-year-old back in Middletown.

“After that I wasn’t interested,” Maurer once said of getting married. “All the good ones were gone.”

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