Mary Lou Goertzen

GoertzenMary Lou Goertzen, 91, Oct. 20, 2020, at home in “the blue schoolhouse” in Deadwood, Ore. She was buried next to her husband, Ernie, on their Deadwood property in a grave dug by neighbors (as was Ernie’s); she wore a shroud she made herself, as she had also done for Ernie.

Mary Lou was born on Aug. 2, 1929, to Willis Rich and Hulda Penner Rich in Newton, Kans. She was the oldest of four siblings, including James, Carol, and Martha Suzanne (known as Mardy). Her father was Bethel College’s director of public relations, so Mary Lou grew up as a “campus kid.” On July 3, 1951, Mary Lou married Ernie Goertzen, whom she met while they were students at Bethel College. 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 wake-up call, after which he and Mary Lou decided to move forward with full-time work as artists. 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 their work in art markets in Berkeley and Mill Valley and developed a local following.

During their Berkeley years, Ernie and Mary Lou were committed to the Vietnam War protest movement, including taking conscientious objectors into their home. They joined the Religious Society of Friends in Berkeley and were active for many years in Pacific Yearly Meeting.

In 1975, Ernie and Mary Lou moved their family to the country and bought an old schoolhouse near Alpha Farm, a Quaker-inspired intentional community in Deadwood, Ore. They formed a Deadwood Worship Group, which later merged with Florence (Ore.) Worship Group. Fifth Sunday meetings were held at Mary Lou and Ernie’s “blue schoolhouse” home, followed by potluck and singing. Many Quakers from Eugene, Ore., and other meetings in the Northwest would join those special Sundays. Mary Lou shared her love of singing with the Deadwood and Greenleaf communities, co-founding the Greenwood Singers. Friends in both Pacific Yearly Meeting and North Pacific Yearly Meeting remember Mary Lou and Ernie leading group singing during community nights.

Mary Lou also took up quilting and formed a quilting group with others in the Deadwood community. Every new baby received a quilt from Mary Lou, and she made quilt images of members of the Deadwood community. In 2012, Mary Lou began making quilts in response to poems and events in her life, including Ernie’s death. The quilts were “made by hand with every stitch a prayer,” in Mary Lou’s words.

Mary Lou was widely known for her delicate pen-and-ink drawings with splashes of watercolor, of flowers, fruit, and plants. In the mid-1970s, her art cards and prints were sold at the New York Botanical Gardens in New York City. Her work caught the attention of Jay Block, CEO of Block China, who traveled from New York City to Deadwood to persuade Mary Lou to allow her designs to be placed on a Block China porcelain dishware series. The series was in production from 1980 to 1990.

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, Anya Goertzen Lecuyer, and Jonevan Goertzen; one grandson; her sister Suzanne “Mardy” Rich Osborn (Phil Osborn); nieces, nephews, and cousins; and countless friends.

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