Mary Christlieb, 89, passed away peacefully Thursday, November 7, 2013 in her Ashland home surrounded by her family. Mary was born in Sheridan, Wyo. October 13, 1924 to Ross and Leta Lewis. She spent her early years on a farm in Villisca, Iowa attending country schools. The ruthless droughts and dust storms of the early 1930's ended her father's farming endeavors and the family packed up all they owned into an under-powered 1928 Chevrolet. One of Mary's enduring memories is the shriveled up cornstalks blown up against the barbed wire fence as the family pulled out and headed for greener pastures in Ashland, Oregon.
While attending the fifth grade at Bellview Elementary School she first became acquainted with quiet and handsome Norm Christlieb. The two of them lost touch when Mary's family re-located to the Willamette Valley in 1936. In the ensuing years Mary excelled in school and graduated from Corvallis High School in 1942 and from Oregon State University in 1947. Norm and Mary met up once again at the wedding of Norm's sister, Yvonne, sparks flew and they were married a few months later in 1947. They lived their entire happy life together in Ashland, residing in the same house for over 65 years for which Norm had traded a new 1948 Ford Club Coup.
From 1948 to 1952, Mary taught business and typing at Ashland High School, quickly rising to the position of Dean of Girls. Following the birth of her two children, Mary returned to education in 1958 as an instructor in the School of Business at Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University) and, for the next 26 years, served the college. During the course of several summers (1964-1965) commuting with her two children to Corvallis, Ore. she earned a master's degree in education from Oregon State University.
Mary ably rose to the position of Dean of Women and then Dean of Students at SOC where she guided many grateful students through the maze of college life during the turbulent sixties and the free-wheeling seventies. Mary bailed errant students out of jail, protected them as they demonstrated against the Vietnam War, held close the troubled and celebrated the successful. In this position, she supervised all dormitories, the Student Union and student activities, academic advising services, the Student Health Center, and many other areas of campus life. She was a committed feminist who was a founding associate of the SOU Women's Resource Center and the Schneider Children's Center. In her long career, Mary had found a harmony in being a professional woman, a loving mother, and a devoted wife in the days before "work-life balance" was even a term. As a leader in the statewide Oregon women's rights movement, she effectively walked the walk through personal steadfastness and professional competence and helped usher in a new era for working women in the region.
Mary retired in 1983 but remained energetic and committed to serving the southern Oregon community. She served on the Rogue Valley Manor Board of Directors for 20 years. She was a founding board member of SOLIR (now OLLI- Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), an active member of Soroptomists, PEO Chapter BN, AAUW and a longtime member of the Presbyterian Church in Ashland. During the course of her retirement she traveled the world, enjoyed the family cabin at Fish Lake and camping trips in their motorhome all the while enriching the lives of her children and grandchildren.
Mary was a great short-order cook, an enthusiastic shopper (her favorite four letter word was "SALE!"), a careful driver, and a glacially slow eater. She loved the morning Oregonian newspaper, post-it notes, a splendid dish of ice cream, and a generous glass of chardonnay. She was the kind of mother who always knew a lot more about what her children were doing then she let on and the kind of grandmother who slipped you a piece of candy during church if the service became boring. Mary was a hard worker her entire long life, but throughout, she remained the epitome of warmth, charm, and genuine compassion.
Mary Christlieb is survived by her husband of 66 years, Norman; son, Dee (Carol) Christlieb; daughter, Carol (Stephen) Jensen, and four grandchildren, Emily Jensen, Sage (Jenna) Jensen, and Alex and Andrew Christlieb. She was preceded in death by her only brother, Donald
Lewis, in 2010.
A celebration of life memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m., Tuesday November 26, 2013 at the Presbyterian Church in Ashland. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Dean Mary Christlieb Scholarship Fund, c/o Southern Oregon University Foundation, 1250
Siskiyou Boulevard, Ashland, OR 97520.