On Thursday, Nov. 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, Wash.; many nieces and nephews; and her best friend, Diana Moss.
Mary was born Nov. 10, 1940, in Potlatch. She attended elementary school in Princeton but graduated from Potlatch High School in 1959. 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 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, Idaho, and in Boise. 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 Minnesota for multiple sclerosis 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 New York Finger Lakes, Zion and Bryce Canyon, the Colombia Gorge, the Colorado Rockies, the Washington Cascades and, in 2016, the New York Adirondacks.
Mary was a lifelong member of the Church of the Nazarene, serving in all capacities: choir member/director, Sunday school director, groundskeeper 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 switchbacks, 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 a.m. Wednesday at Short’s Funeral Chapel, 1225 E. Sixth St., 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. Arrangements have been entrusted to Short’s Funeral Chapel and condolences may be left and flowers ordered at www.shortsfuneralchapel.com.