Mary Jane (Cook) Walcher was born February 24, 1938 in Paris, Texas to John and Dova (Charles) Baessler and peacefully stepped into heaven on March 16, 2016, at the home she loved in Laverne, surrounded by some of the friends and family that were her joy. Mary attended grade school in Coldwater, KS and graduated high school in 1956 at Laverne. After attending college at Panhandle A&M, OU and Northwestern State College, she earned her teaching degree in 1961. She married Dennis Cook on March 16, 1956 in Clayton, NM. Following Dennis’ death, Mary remarried Les Walcher on November 21, 1984. She was preceded in death by her parents, husbands Dennis Cook and Les Walcher, and her brothers – Keith, Ted, and Moritz (Popeye) Baessler and is survived by the sisters she loved – Dovie Shuman and Nancy Myler. Left to cherish her memory are her children David and Janet Cook, Laverne; Todd and Dena Cook, Laverne; Sheldon and Connie Cook, McAlester; Guy and Susan Walcher, Mustang; Greg Walcher, Millcreek; grandchildren Doug and Kristin Cook, Amber Cook, Greg and Stefani Cook, Jared Cook, Kyle Cook, Brandi and Garrett Street, Tyler Cook, Courtney Cook, Jeramy and Kathryn McPhetridge, Nate and Amanda McPhetridge, Erika Gillock, Logan and Kristen Walcher, April Walcher, Peyton Walcher, and Conner Walcher; great-grandchildren Corban, Paige and Dagan Cook, Sam and Caroline Cook, Alyssa, Sarah and Lauren McPhetridge, Caleb and Hannah McPhetridge, Olivia Gillock, Beckley and Holden Walcher, Lucian Humphrey and Kason Leach; sisters Dovie Shuman and Nancy Myler and best friend Vickie Luckett.
And, now we struggle to summarize all that she was…her life…what David calls the “dash” between 1938-2016…into words. As inadequate as words are, we will try to honor the woman she was. Mary was a woman who was passionate about life…her family, friends and faith in particular.
Her passion for family helped Mary to faithfully stand with her first love and husband, Dennis Cook, from their marriage on March 16, 1956 until his death. After spending some time alone, she then married Les Walcher on November 21, 1984 and shared a full and happy life with him until his death in 2008. It is a sweet footnote to the love story of Dennis and Mary that they were reunited in heaven on the 60th anniversary of their wedding. Dennis and Mary had three children – David, Todd and Sheldon – whom she was proud of her entire life. Sheldon recalls how he could always hear her voice above all others at sporting events, a reminder of the passion she brought to her parenting. When asked what they want others to remember about their mother, all three men recall her caring servant’s heart, awareness of the needs of others, and generosity. In fact, the word “servant” seems to be the word used to describe her most often the past few days. She had a unique gift of discerning the needs of those close to her, and doing everything in her power to meet those needs. She was abundantly generous, and always looking for an opportunity to share what she had with others. Because of her servant’s heart, she never believed she was better than anyone else. She had a way of laughing at her imperfections that made others feel their own faults would not be judged, and people felt safe in her presence. Someone once expressed their appreciation to her about how she made others feel welcome and included. She seemed to disregard the compliment and simply stated, “No matter how many there are, there is always room for one more.” It seemed to describe how she lived her life in one statement. And, somehow, she always made each person feel they were the special one that extra spot was for.
This petite servant has also been described as “tough”, “straight-shooter” and “strong”. She believed there were times the right thing needed to be said or done, regardless of how much she may not want to do it. She was able to deliver difficult advice or discipline, when needed, without the person questioning her love. Her strength combined with her servant’s heart meant those she loved knew they had a fierce advocate they could count on when needed. As her family grew through marriages, Mary provided the loving environment, then set the example and expectation that the new members of the family belonged. Her daughter-in-laws – Janet, Dena, and Connie -- all share how she made them feel loved as one of her own. Mary created a blended family that gets along “splendidly” (in her own words) when she married Les over 30 years ago – a family that fits together so seamlessly that a few observers are confused about who belonged to who first. Guy and his wife, Susan, quickly lost the concept of being “blended” and just felt like they belonged. She left this earth with 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. As they began to arrive, she became known simply as “Granny” to most everyone. She delighted in each grandchild and, true to her servant nature, provided a home or traveled when necessary to make sure each one felt special and had their own memories of time with Pops and Granny. She worked hard to keep up with her grandparenting duties, even when she had to carry on alone without Pops eight years ago. She particularly loved having the whole family together, where there was sure to be a Russian Rummy game, her famous red-hot salad on holidays, lots of food and laughter. As the family grew, she eventually remodeled the house, always aware of the importance of a home that was designed and ready for family get-togethers.
Mary loved her sisters, Dovie & Nancy. Because they shared the same home town, Dovie and Mary have many stories of life together. Some of the stories shared the past few days include memories of camping trips where Mary and Dovie set up a complete kitchen to feed the entire camping crew. Dovie remembers the day Mary was born 78 years ago, and recalls telling her Daddy she wanted to name the new baby Mary Jane.
Mary’s roots in Laverne are deep, and she leaves behind a lifetime of memories made by investing her life in the community. She was a life-long believer that you “shop at home” when possible. It was recently discovered that Mary was Laverne’s first Homecoming Queen her junior year in 1955. Through the years, she has served her community in many ways. At the time of her death, she was on the Board of Directors of Bank of Laverne. Mary was a 3rd grade teacher for 29 years in Laverne, retiring in 1991. Stories shared recently were how she taught children to do things not normally on the lesson plans…for example, to play jacks on her lunch hour…but often they seem to describe how she made them feel and that they thought she was beautiful…a sure sign that these children sensed her authentic interest in them. She was passionate about friends. Many days were spent at the kitchen table, keeping a protective eye on the neighbors and family who lived nearby. She had a special love for her friend, Vickie Luckett, and enjoyed sharing stories about their adventures. Mary summed up their special relationship best, saying, “Everybody needs a Vickie.” Mary also loved a good card game with friends, and played often in both Laverne and Buffalo. The past few months, these card games with friends were an especially bright spot in the midst of some very difficult times. Her passion for her faith in Jesus never wavered. She served her Savior at First Christian Church in Laverne from childhood. She served in many capacities over the years, from VBS teacher to Board member. She was also CWF President, where her leadership and compassion earned her the nickname of “Mother Mary”. Her faith remained constant as she said goodbye to 2 husbands, guided her family, faced cancer and everything in between with a calm assurance that her faith in Jesus was well-founded. She served consistently and intentionally to the very end, and when her body couldn’t go on any longer, she went home when Jesus called on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. Surely, she heard the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.
Mary fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith. And for that, we are better for having had her in our lives. It seems hard to go on without her, but we have the assurance that we will see her again and that the same One Who walked with her is faithful to walk with us. It seems appropriate that we are celebrating Mary’s life as we are preparing to celebrate the reason we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. As we consider Christ’s completed work on the cross this Easter, it is because of that cross we know she is in heaven, fully restored and waiting to show us her new home. In the last days of her life, it was a sweet gift to hear her voice as it was before she got sick. Knowing Mary’s love for Jesus, her welcoming heart, and her desire that others know Him, we might guess what she would say if she could talk to us again on earth…what she would say if she were able to tell us what one thing we should know about her new home. Somehow it seems right to think she just might say, “No matter how many there are, there is always room for one more .