Mary Elizabeth Anderson

Mary Elizabeth Anderson online 062619June 17, 1921-July 1, 2018 First Anniversary of her Death Mary Epler was born in Eaton, Colorado on June 17, 1921. She was the oldest surviving child of Albert Allen Epler and Susan E. Leadbetter Epler; five years later, she was joined by her sister, Ruth. Like all American families of the time, her life was affected by the Depression. Although her father was employed as the manager of the local farmers’ cooperative, money was always tight and thriftiness was encouraged. She observed and absorbed the skills of her mother, grandmothers and aunts in cooking, gardening, sewing and decorative needlework. She was also one of the top scholars in her small-town school. As a child, she liked to spend time on her grandparents’ farm on the edge of the prairie, where she also had the opportunity to play with cousins.

On windy dust-bowl Sunday afternoons she would join her father in searching for and finding arrowheads in newly plowed fields. After graduating from the University of Denver in 1943 with a degree in Humanities and Spanish, she moved to California to take a job as a computer with NACA (now NASA) at Moffett Field. There she met Adrien “Andy” Anderson, an aeronautical engineer. They were married in 1945 and had three children. During these early years, Mary was introduced to weaving in adult education classes; she later returned to this skill and it became her primary creative talent. The Andersons moved to Los Altos in 1956, to a house that they designed themselves. Mary continued to live in this house until her death. Mary was involved in many organizations, always taking a responsible volunteer position. She was a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a founding member of the Los Altos Friends of the Library, and a Camp Fire Girls leader for seven years. In the 1960’s, while serving as a Camp Fire Girls leader, Mary began experimenting with natural dying and weaving as outdoor projects for summer day camp. This work renewed her interest in weaving, which she was able to pursue with more intensity after her children were grown. She achieved a professional level of technical and creative competence in this art form. She was a member of the Bay Area Arts and Crafts Guild and a long-time active member of the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. She was an early adopter of computerized weaving, designing complex patterns on the computer and transferring the design to the loom. She was a mentor to many aspiring weavers and earned the respect of everyone who worked with her. During the 1970’s she taught weaving through Mountain View-Los Altos School District Adult Education. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, she traveled extensively around the world. While her interests were varied, she always sought out the textile artists and took delight when she saw women spinning with a drop spindle; she would pull out her own spindle and show them that she could spin too. Mary came from a long line of women accomplished in the fiber and textile arts. One of her greatest joys occurred in the 1980’s when she discovered a spinning wheel that had been used by her great grandmother in the attic of a distant relative. She was able to bring it home with her, where it took pride of place in her living room. She was a volunteer for the Los Altos Friends of the Library for over 65 years. She was at nearly every sorting day and book sale for many years. She became the rare book specialist, pricing books using on-line resources. Even as her health declined, she was able to continue the rare book pricing from her home computer. In her later years, she was also active in a senior memoir writing class at the Los Altos Senior Center, a dinner group with members of St. Nicholas church and a book club. A party celebrating her 90th birthday in 2011 was attended by over 100 people. Mary remained active until a few months before her death, saying that it was not over until it was over. Mary was preceded in death by her husband, Andy, in 1981 and her sister, Ruth Armatage in 2014. She is survived by her three children, Susan Lopez (Armando) of Cerritos, California, Allen Anderson (Tama Hochbaum) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Catherine Anderson of Berkeley, California, plus five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She is remembered for her creativity, practicality, curiosity, willingness to teach others, and overall competence at any project she undertook. She is greatly missed by her family and her many friends; her influence lives on in all of them.

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