Mary Ellen (Gannon) Meis, eldest child of Marcus and Irene Gannon and beloved wife of John Meis, was born at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, April 24, 1938. She came home to their small farmhouse outside of Perry, just down the road from Marcus’ parents, Joe “J. J.” and Mary Loretta “Mayme” Gannon, with whom they farmed.
Farming was productive, as was the Gannon family, yielding two sisters, Margaret and Julie, who remained close to Mary until her death.
At the age of 2, Mary did not respond when her Mother called her name, having contracted scarlet fever, which deprived her of more than half of her auditory sense. Mary courageously worked through this challenge and learned to read people’s lips. She progressed in the country schoolhouse, graduating first in her class of four, attended St. Patrick High School and graduated from Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, Iowa.
Mary used her two-year Associates Degree as a typist in the business offices at Iowa State University. After several years, she returned to care for the elderly in a Perry nursing home and later worked at Beebout’s hardware store.
While volunteering some of her time as a secretary at St. Patrick Catholic Church, she met the love of her life, John Meis, an English instructor from Adel. John was introduced to her while he helped paint the interior of St. Pat’s church. Soon, they found far greater joy attending shows like “The Sound of Music” in Des Moines and picnicking at the Ledges State Park. They married a year later at St. Pat’s on July 18, 1970.
Considering Mary’s loving, gentle, and patient disposition and her warm memories of growing up with sisters on the farm, perhaps one can understand Mary’s hope for a daughter. But God had other plans and sent three energetic and rowdy boys instead: Conrad, Peter and Bernard.
For the next several decades, Mary took her maternal role seriously, staying at home and caring for the entire family. She used the many lessons learned on the farm to grow a large garden, help butcher livestock, can food, sew clothing and manage the many other challenges of a lively household.
In between, she faithfully attended the boy’s many sporting and other extracurricular activities. Mary could often be found in the front row at Adel-De Soto’s band, jazz, choral, and theatrical performances, faithfully recording the productions.
After the boys graduated, Mary worked part-time at the Adel Public Library and as the recreational director at Adel Acres Nursing Home before retiring and traveling with John.
Following John’s sudden death in 1999, Mary showed a surprisingly independent streak, designing and building herself a new home a block away from the old, where she quilted and entertained a throng of grandchildren.
Mary loved family, and many of her weekends and vacations involved spending time with both her immediate and extended family, including the Denning clan in Western Iowa. As her grandchildren became involved, she enjoyed watching them in school programs and sports, particularly baseball. Following John’s death, she became perhaps even closer with his brothers and sisters, sharing numerous travel adventures together.
Throughout, Mary developed an ever-greater understanding and appreciation for the Catholic faith. She was an advocate for the poor and disadvantaged, and she gave generously to a multitude of causes near and far. At St. John’s parish in Adel, she was a co-founder of “Reach Out,” a program to help people in need, and Mary was a key representative for the parish’s involvement in the Adel food pantry.
For years she distributed Holy Communion to the sick and homebound, first at St. John’s and later at St. Pat’s, where she rejoined upon her return once again to Perry. She happily shared her faith with anyone who asked. Searching for greater spiritual growth, she became a third order Carmelite later in life.
Mary enjoyed her last several years at Spring Valley Retirement Community, an assisted living facility in Perry. After experiencing multiple organ failure on May 25, 2020, she departed from the same hospital in which she was born 82 years earlier to embark on her final journey to meet her Maker and her husband in heaven.
Mary was preceded in death by her mother, father and husband.
Survivors include three children, Conrad (Maureen) Meis from Algona, Peter (Klista) Meis from Perry and Bernard (Laura) Meis from Minneapolis, Minnesota; 11 grandchildren, Maria, John, Joseph, Daniel, Gannon, Myla, Karlyn Lambert, Leland, Sheila and Tilda; two sisters, Margaret (Norb) Malik from Iowa City and Julie (Denny) Dorman from Sunrise Beach, Missouri; two sisters-in-law, Rose Fischer from Manchester, Iowa, and Margaret (Tom) Hall from Independence, Missouri; one brother-in-law, Vincent Meis from Dubuque; and roughly a score of nephews and nieces on both sides, living throughout the United States.
Due to COVID-19 and following CDC recommendations on large gatherings, there will be no open visitation and funeral service at this time. The funeral will be live-streamed at 1 p.m. Friday, May 29 on the Caldwell Parrish website. A private burial will take place at Saint Mary’s Cemetery. A Mass and Celebration of Life will be held at a later date in the following year.
In lieu of flowers or a memorial, the family requests that you remember Mary by considering someone in need and passing it forward. Online condolences may be left at www.caldwellparrish.com.