By Phil Conger
Mary McMahon of Bethany recalls being given a tough assignment while working for the War Department in Washington, D.C., during World War II.
Mrs. McMahon had the unenviable task of writing letters to the families of service members who were killed in action on the European and Pacific battlefronts.
Mary, who will turn 100 years old on Friday, said the War Department’s large staff of letter writers used form letters for the most part but “sometimes we had a special one.”
Mrs. McMahon was born on April 14, 1917, on a farm in western Nebraska near Aurora. She attended a business college in Hastings, Neb.
She met her future husband, Ed McMahon, at a dance in Washington. He was in the Navy and served on a battleship during the war.
Ed was a rancher in South Dakota and brought his new bride back with him to live on his farm, located about 25 miles from Rapid City.
“I could see Mt. Rushmore from my kitchen window,” she recalls, but the monument carved in rock was too far away for her to make out the individual faces.
Mary would cook for the cowboys who came through the ranch.
‘I would make pies for the horsemen on my wood stove,” she said.
The McMahons moved several years ago to the Gallatin area where they raised cattle on a 90-acre farm and leased pasture. She used her business degree to find employment with a lawyer.
They purchased a home east of Bethany near Prairie Vu where they raised their five children, one of whom passed away.
They retired and moved to Bethany several years ago. Ed, who sold farmland in addition to ranching, passed away in 2005. Now a widow, Mary attends the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and plays bridge with friends at least two days a week.
Mary continues to maintain her own home in East Bethany. “I have been pretty healthy over the years,” she said.
Her daughter, Kathleen, who lives in Kansas City, checks on her mother frequently and was trimming trees at her home on a warm spring afternoon last week.
Mary had an opportunity to care for Kathleen recently when her daughter had ear surgery.
Mary’s children have organized a 100th birthday party for their mother from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, at the Eckard’s Community Center. A program has been planned for 3 p.m.