On November 21, 2019, Mary Lois Needham died from complications from treatment for aggressive multi-myeloma cancer that she fought long and hard. She was preceded in death by her parents Leroy and Georgian Needham, brother Freddie, and “big brother” Marion. She is survived by a sister Betty Barrett of Boise, brothers Calvin Clayton of Tennessee and Joe of Vancouver, WA, many nieces and nephews, and her best friend Diana Moss.
Mary was born November 10, 1940, in Potlatch, ID. She attended elementary school in Princeton but graduated from Potlatch High School in ’59. Helping on the family farm is how she she learned her work-work-work ethic and developed her physical strength. She was small but she was mighty.
In 1964 she graduated from Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, ID with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education. In 1968 she earned a Master’s Degree in Physical Education from the University of Minnesota. She later earned another Master’s degree and a Specialist degree in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Idaho.
Mary taught her first two years in Notus, ID and in Boise, ID. In 1965 she began a long, successful career with the Saint Paul Public Schools, teaching health and physical education; and coaching volleyball, basketball, track and field, softball, badminton, and gymnastics. She was very competitive and took many of her teams to the championship level. In 1977 she switched from teaching to counseling but continued to coach. In 1994 Mary moved to the Student Placement Center, where she was director of Secondary Placement until she retired in 2000 after 36 years in education.
Mary had many interests and hobbies. She was an avid long distance bicyclist, biking across Minnesota, Iowa, and into Michigan. For many years she biked the Minnesota Tram, biking across MN for MS in honor of her nephew Michael; her last Tram was in 2017. She cycled across Idaho and into Oregon and back, biked the Erie Canal, the NY Finger Lakes, Zion and Bryce Canyon, the Colombia Gorge, the Colorado Rockies, the Washington Cascades, and in 2016 the NY Adirondacks.
Mary was a life-long member of the Church of the Nazarene, serving in all capacities: choir member/director, Sunday school director, grounds-keeper, and pianist. In Saint Paul she worked closely with the Southeast Asian community. She had a heart for mission work, joining trips to Estonia and Russia; Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand; and Mozambique, Africa.
Mary had her mother’s green thumb, which led to thriving flower and vegetable gardens. She could never throw a plant away! She grew enough winter squash to feed the neighborhood. She also crocheted afghans for an untold number of babies.
After retiring from Saint Paul schools, she returned to her roots, buying 40 acres on Gold Hill in Princeton and going to work for Potlatch Schools, driving school bus and substitute teaching. She drove the kids to school, taught them, and then drove them home! She officially retired June 2, 2018. In 2010 after growing tired of having to plow three switch-backs, she moved to Good Samaritan’s Fairview Estates where everything was done for her—a hard adjustment for the energizer bunny on steroids.
The story would not be complete without mentioning Honey, Barney, Elroy, Sandy, and the many other shelter dogs from the Humane Society of the Palouse, where she devoted hundreds of hours walking dogs, cleaning kennels, cutting the grass, washing litter pans, folding clothes—nothing was too hard or too dirty for her. She loved her animals and they loved her. She must have been smothered at the Rainbow Bridge.
Mary Needham was a strong, amazingly courageous woman whose light shone way beyond her imagination. Cancer did not win-God did. He called her home when He finished shining her light.
The funeral celebration will be at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday December 4, 2019 Short’s Funeral Chapel, 1225 E 6th Street, Moscow, followed by a luncheon at the Nazarene Church next door. After the luncheon Mary’s ashes will be buried in the Potlatch cemetery.
Mary requested that memorials be given to The Humane Society of the Palouse, 2019 E White Ave., Moscow, ID 83843.
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