Mary Lou Wilhelm – A Great Friend of Slow Money SLO


Slow Money SLO and It’s Value to Me
Mary Lou Wilhelm’s interest in and support of Slow Money SLO stems from her early associations with agriculture. She is a second generation American, born and raised on her family’s ranch homesteaded by her grandparents in 1888. They first came to Crook City near Deadwood in 1877 for the gold, then in 1879 moved to the southern Dakota Black Hills to partner in established gold mines. In 1911, they moved about a mile from their log home to the newly built two story frame house near the creek in Tenderfoot Gulch. Mary Lou writes of her childhood years as follows.

I grew up immersed in our family’s heritage of cattle ranching and seasonal dry farming using horses for working the crops. We also had a small dairy herd, beef cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens. This and seasonal wild game provided sustenance for the family, some cash money and traded staples. All work was accomplished manually without electricity or modern plumbing.

I gathered the eggs, fed the chickens, brought in firewood, weeded the vegetable garden, churned butter, learned to cook, bake, preserve food by canning, and fed and pulled laundry through our small motor powered wash machine, ironed with stove-toped heated flatirons and other daily chores. In my childhood, I learned of the many inherent responsibilities with managing agriculture sustainably and the joy and beauty of living on the land. My first paid job was trapping gophers in the fields to prevent leg injuries to our work horses by stepping into a gopher hole. My dad paid 10 cents for each trapped gopher.

Born in 1937 near the end of the Depression and just before WW II in a rural unsophisticated time gave me experiences few know of today. I fondly remember the one room log school and the 3 mile walk from home and back through pine studded hills and cattle fields with barbed wire fences to crawl under. Depending upon seasonal sawmill work, 5 to 23 students in all eight grades attended. Because of my mother’s health, our ranch was sold and we moved to Rapid City SD. It was quite a change to be in fifth grade with 29 other classmates.

During my junior and high school years, I worked at various jobs from baby sitting to car hop, drug store clerk and tourist guide. After graduating from Rapid City High School in 1954, my parents offered to pay tuition for a one year teacher education program at Black Hills Teacher’s College. Then, upon completion of this training program, I could teach in a rural school. The following summer I learned of a Lutheran teacher scholarship and obtained a scholarship to Concordia College, St. Paul MN for an additional year of teacher

This resulted in an assignment to teach in an elementary Lutheran school in Orange County CA in 1956. After two years of teaching I decided to obtain a B.A. and left California for Concordia University, River Forest IL. Next came a year of teaching in Seattle and a return to Orange County and another year of teaching. During my college years I worked part time as a house cleaner, drug store clerk and one summer as a live-in nanny, cook and house cleaner for board and room. I earned my B. A. in 1960, The fall of 1961 I changed careers and applied for a job opening at the Anaheim Public Library. I was hired as a librarian trainee working full time and part time driving from Orange County to attend classes at the University of Southern California for a Master of Science in Library Science, which, I earned in 1966. That year I began working as a librarian for Orange Coast College. During my second year I was appointed Head Librarian and remained there 10 years. In August 1976, I was hired as the Director of Library and Media Services for Cuesta College.

Following my January 1994 retirement from Cuesta, I volunteered for various community nonprofits including as a Cuesta Library Friends Board Director, chair of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden Library Committee, was a Board Director for the Central Coast Memorial Society and continued as the creator and organizer of its archives and chair of its 50th Anniversary celebration.

I wrote, compiled, edited and published Glimpses of the Past:A History of the Brutger, Koch, Klapperich, and Wilhelm Families. C2000; Charlotte’s Tale c2001; Mary Koch Wilhelm: My Story, my mother’s diaries 1923 – 1991 c2003; Richard Edgar Root Celebrates 75 Years, memories, stories, and pictures from family and friends, 2004; The Fred Lovejoy Legacy: His Adventures and Enterprises in Wyoming and South Dakota c2005 and The McDonald Family History, memories by family members of themselves or other relatives, 2006.

I am the second youngest of six sisters and brother born between 1924 and 1940. My remaining sister lives in Los Osos. We continue as a close knit family. Our father died in 1965 and our mother in 1991.

My husband, Richard Root, and I married in January 1990.He came from Wyoming to San Luis Obispo by request of local dentists to open the first dental laboratory in the county. During our 27 years we traveled throughout the United States and Mexico. He has four sons. I have a daughter. Together we have 9 grandchildren and one great grandson. We enjoy times together.

As I near my 80th, I continue my “young at heart” attitude, strength train, walk read, travel, and eat mostly scratch-cooked locally grown organic food. I believe in supporting locally owned businesses and donate to nonprofits that contribute to our community dwellers’ wellbeing, through its economy, educational opportunities, cultural enhancement, and stabilized peaceful living.

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