Mary Lou Goertzen

Date of Birth

August 2nd, 1929

Date of Death

October 20th, 2020

Memorial Meeting

Berkeley Monthly Meeting


[Memorial Minute 1 of 2 for Mary Lou Goetzen]

Mary Lou Rich Goertzen died October 20, 2020, at home in "the blue schoolhouse" in Deadwood, Oregon.  She was born August 2, 1929 in Newton, Kansas, to Willis Rich and Hulda Penner Rich, the oldest of four siblings, along with James, Carol, and Martha Suzanne (known as Mardy).  In 1934, her father became Bethel College's first director of public relations, so Mary Lou grew up as a "campus kid".  Another strong tie to the college was Mary Lou's brother, Jim, the landscape architect largely responsible for the Green in the center of campus as it looks today.

Mary Lou and Ernie Goertzen, whom she met when they were students at Bethel College, were married in North Newton, Kansas on July 3, 1951. For two years they staffed a school in western Kansas, dividing the six classes between them.

They tried unsuccessfully to have children and decided to adopt.  Their first child was David, whom they saw on the day he was born, November 25, 1955, and brought home five days later.  Much to their delight, Mary Lou became pregnant a few years later, and their daughter Anya was born October 21, 1959 and 18 months later they adopted Jonevan, born March 15, 1961, who joined their family at 10 weeks of age. 

Ernie was severely injured in an automobile collision in 1961. He described this  as "a turning point" and "a wake-up call," after which he and Mary Lou decided to "move forward with artwork" full time. In 1965, the family moved to Berkeley, California, where both Ernie and Mary Lou took art classes and began to create paintings and drawings.  They sold these in art markets in Berkeley later Mill Valley and developed a local following. They also enjoyed singing duets, which they did often in their lives, including when Ernie was near death.

Mary Lou and Ernie became members of Berkeley Friends Meeting by convincement on January 8, 1967. In 1970 they joined two couples from the Catholic and Unitarian fellowships to form a living commune, The Community of St. Francis, located inland from Big Sur.

While in Berkeley, Ernie and Mary Lou became committed to the anti-Vietnam War movement, including hiding soldiers, who had decided to become conscientious objectors, in their home. In 1975, Ernie and Mary Lou decided to move their family to the country and bought an old schoolhouse in Deadwood, Oregon, in Oregon's Coast  Range. They formed a home business called “Schoolhouse Arts” to sell their artwork. The business expanded and from 1983 to 1987 they ran a store in Eugene, OR called “Simple Gifts”. Mary Lou is probably most widely known for her delicate pen-and-ink drawings with splashes of watercolor, of flowers, fruit and plants. In the mid-'70s, some of her art cards and prints sold at the New York  Botanical Garden caught the attention of Jay Block, CEO of his family's company, Block China.  Block came himself from New York to Deadwood to talk Mary Lou into putting her designs on a Block China porcelain  dishware series, in production from 1980-90. Lap and Nap Quilts and Comforters, published in 2014, showcases Mary Lou's quilting and embroidery in 25 quilts she created between 1992 and 2013, many of them as a way of expressing her feelings of  grief and loss following Ernie's death on July 17, 2004.

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, Deadwood, OR, Anya Goertzen Lecuyer, Eugene, OR, and  Jonevan Goertzen, northern California; her grandson Colins Goertzen;  and her sister Suzanne "Mardy" Rich Osborn, Fairbanks, Alaska; along  with nieces, nephews, cousins (including Zona Galle and Dwight Platt,  North Newton) and countless friends.  Mary Lou was buried next to Ernie on their Deadwood property, in a grave dug by neighbors (as was his), in a shroud she made herself, as she also did for him. Memorials are Bethel College and Mennonite Central Committee.