Mary Ellen Lewis

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Mary Ellen Lewis, a school librarian, grew up in Lewisville, Minnesota. She lived away from the county for many years but returned here upon retirement. Mary Ellen died on October 23, 1995, and her entire estate was left to numerous charities. The love of reading, learning, and her roots were very important to Mary Ellen. Two of her beneficiaries were the Lewisville Branch Library and the Watonwan County Libraries. The money donated to the Watonwan County Libraries was placed in an endowment fund. The interest from this investment will be used for such projects and purposes to promote literacy that benefits the library system on a countywide basis.

Mary Ellen was born September 16, 1906 to Nelson and Mary Ellen Lewis on a farm near Lewisville. She was the youngest of three children. Her oldest sister Gladys died in 1956 and Beatrice died in 1989.

Mary Ellen graduated from Carleton College in 1928, but was unable to find a job so had to come home. She later got her first teaching job in Cassleton, ND. She taught there until the school district did not have the money to pay the teachers. She again returned home. She next attended the University of Minnesota where she received her master's degree. Now she was able to get a job teaching at Waseca where she was paid $100 per month. After teaching a few years at Waseca, she quit her job and went back to the University to work on her library degree. She worked in the University Law Library for a time before getting the opportunity to become a librarian at Owatonna. She made her home there until her retirement in 1972.

Mary Ellen was not content with experiencing the world merely through her teaching about it in the schools or through books. She also traveled to those distant places herself and experienced them firsthand. She traveled to such places as: Alaska, Ireland, Italy, England, Greece, Bermuda, Japan, Scotland, the Vatican, Wales, Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, France, Bolivia, Peru, India, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Portugal, Turkey, Finland, Korea, Cuba, Panama, Guatemala, Singapore, China, and Spain. She even stepped in the River Jordan and brought back water for a cousin's baptism.

Ms. Lewis owned three farms in the Lewisville area. She was a shareholder of the Merchants State Bank of Lewisville, now called Fathers State Bank. Mary Ellen was known to be a very private and often fiercely independent woman. She was very knowledgeable in finance and always stayed up-to-date on the latest farming technology.

Although Mary Ellen was not one to be be content with staying close to home, she always returned, again and again, to the place where she remembered who she was and the business she was truly about. After she retired, she gave the residents of Lewisille the gift of a new library in 1994. She donated the money needed to build and furnish the Lewisville Branch Library. The balance not used was put into a maintenance fund for future expenses. Ms. Lewis also gave generous donations to the colleges she attended, the church she belonged to and the Watonwan County Historical Society. She was a unique person who gave the residents of Watonwan County a unique opportunity.
~Watonwan County Historical Society, Madelia, MN




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