Mary Daume, Monroe Michigan Public Servant, Civic Leader, Dies


By: Dean Cousino story updated October 28. 2006 11:03PM

The Following is quoted as published In the Monroe Evening News Sunday October 30, 2006.

Mrs. Daume, retired director of the Monroe County Library System, dedicated her life to the community, her son recalls.

Longtime civic leader and former Monroe County Library System director Mary Daume, known as a pioneer of area philanthropy, public servant and for getting community projects done, died about 11 a.m. Saturday in her Monroe home. She was 93.
Services are pending at the Rupp Funeral Home.

Her son, Kurt, said he found Mrs. Daume in her home. His mother had lived at home under nursing care for the past two years.

"We had been expecting this," Mr. Daume said Saturday. "She died of old age. She didn't suffer. She knew everyone around her. Her mind and awareness were good right up to the very end."

Mrs. Daume and her husband, Karl, moved to Monroe in 1940 and she quickly became involved in various organizations and community projects.

Mr. Daume died in 1996 at the age of 88.

A 32-year career as a librarian started with her substituting at the Dorsch Memorial Library in 1944 and ended when she stepped down as director of the library system on Jan. 1, 1976.

In between, she served as assistant county librarian to Lillian Stewart Navarre, for whom a branch is named.

Mrs. Daume became county librarian in 1947 and became director when the county and Dorsch libraries merged in 1963.

During her stint as director, she was credited with greatly expanding the system's services and building the Edward D. Ellis Library at M-50 and S. Raisinville Rd. in 1959 as a central service building.

In 1965, it was necessary to double the building in size. The circulation of books also soared from 150,000 to 800,000.

1956, there were five mobile units and every school served on a four-week basis.

The system became nationally famous for its collections of Gen. George Armstrong Custer and  Michigan memorabilia.

She once said that  Michigan and  Monroe County were the "greatest" places on earth to live.

"My work has been my hobby and chief interests involve writing and working with people," she said after retiring.

Richard G. Micka, a retired La-Z-Boy vice president, said Mrs. Daume didn't slow down after she retired.

"She kept on going and doubled the pace," Mr. Micka said Saturday. "She'd been a volunteer and a pioneer of philanthropy. The single biggest thing about her was her foresight."

Mrs. Daume also was a founding member, former executive director and past board member with the Community Foundation of Monroe County, which she helped form in 1979. This year, the foundation reported $4.9 million in assets and provided more than $300,000 in grants and scholarships. In 2003, the foundation honored her commitment to the foundation's growth by creating a leadership council in her name.

The foundation was the product of brainstorming more than 25 years ago between Mrs. Daume and the late Herman Gertz, former secretary of the La-Z-Boy Foundation.

The two community leaders started with a mere $25 and saw the foundation grow to the point where it gives out thousands of grants each year.

Mr. Micka said he believed the leaders were motivated by the library's bicentennial celebration in 1976.

"The library had a lot of activities going on," he recalled. "The two of them wanted to do something meaningful for the next 200 years."

Mr. Micka's wife, Jeanne, said Mrs. Daume was an inspiration to her and many others.

"She inspired many of us with her leadership to follow her in civic-minded activities."

Mrs. Daume also was responsible for the lotus flower becoming a symbol of  Monroe, she said.

Mrs. Daume was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church. Norma Lockwood was a friend of hers from the church and remembered how Mrs. Daume often would pick her up to teach Sunday school.

"She was a very organized person and she was into so many different things," Mrs. Lockwood said Saturday. "I remember her telling me once that in order to stay young, you have to stay busy."
About 20 years ago, Mrs. Daume told her a story of when she was ill at age 18 that her doctor told her she would not live to see 35.

"He was long gone and she's still here," Mrs. Lockwood said.

She said the
Lotus Fountain in downtown Monroe is a wonderful tribute to Mrs. Daume.

"She worked hard to raise money for that fountain. She wanted to see it done."

Becky Stoner met Mrs. Daume from her work with the library board and Friends in Council. Her friend sometimes would drop off flowers to her from her garden.

"She always had a goal and would go for it until it was developed," Mrs. Stoner said.

Mr. Daume said his mother loved Monroe and especially the downtown. When she was healthy, she often walked a few blocks to the downtown to pay her utility bills or do her banking.

"She lived for this community and dedicated her life to it," her son said. "She loved the people ... the sad thing to her was she outlived most of her peers."

Her community efforts included more than 50 years of membership in both Friends in Council and Altrusa International and as a founder of the Monroe Thrift Shop Association and North Cape Yacht Club.

She also was active in Michigan Week, Business and Professional Women, Lotus Garden Club, Monroe County Historical Society, Monroe Garden Club, American Association of University Women, Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, Monroe Golf & Country Club and other community groups.

In addition to Mr. Daume and his wife, Joanne, she is survived by another son, John of Woodland Hills, Calif.; two grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

The Monroe Evening News

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