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Mary Ann ClarkJune 22, 1929 ~ January 6, 2018 (age 88)
Mary Ann Clark Obituary
Mary Ann Wilson Clark, 88, of Milan, Missouri, died on Saturday, January 6 at Boone Hospital Center, Columbia, Missouri.
The daughter of Robert McClary Wilson and Bertha Belle (Woods) Wilson of Milan. Mary Ann was born on June 22, 1929 in Centerville, Iowa. Mary Ann had, among many other talents, a special gift for choosing loving husbands. She was married to Francis Lloyd (Frank) Cowgill from for 41 years. In 2003 she married Charles R. Clark, a friend since first grade, who survives her.
Mary Ann’s father survived the flu epidemic at the end of World War I. After a year in the grocery business in Kansas City Bob decided to return to Milan where he was elected to two terms as Sullivan County Clerk. He married Mary Ann’s mother on February 16, 1924. On June 29, 1932, when Mary Ann was three, Bob purchased the Milan Standard Printing Company.
Mary Ann was a life-long, if sometimes unwilling, newspaper woman. Her Democratic politics and those of her newspaper, though, were unapologetic.
She wrote of ”loving (as a child) to watch the big printing press run” and feeling cheated that it usually ran after she had been put to bed.
Mary Ann also recalled that “spelling was a very important part of the paper.” According to her father, “it was especially important to spell people’s names correctly, especially the names ‘Rogers’ and ‘Rodgers.’ If spelled with a “d” they were Democrats and if no “d” they were Republicans. In spite of Mary Ann and her brothers’ best efforts, life-long friends Jim and John Rogers could never be persuaded to enhance their family name with a “d.”
As an older child Mary Ann helped to proof the paper at night so that it could be set for printing the next day. To help her with her copyediting some of her father’s friends bought her a spelling dictionary. On her retirement that tattered volume migrated from drawer at the Standard to one in Charley’s office though it offers little help as to the correct spelling of expressions such as “Wi Fi,” “ethernet” or “megabyte.”
Mary Ann’s first full day as a journalist was less than promising. When she was about 13, she recalled, her father went to the State Fair for a day, leaving her in charge of the front office.
Thinking that her dad’s desk was a bit disorganized she decided to help him out by imposing some order. When her father returned she proudly showed him her contribution. He responded, “Young lady, you are never to touch things on my desk again; I could put my hand in there and find anything I needed but now I can’t find anything at all.”
(History repeats itself: Shortly after Mary Ann’s death, her daughter, Cherie Nichols, and former daughter-in-law, Becky Johnson, decided to support Charley while he was running errands by straightening and cleaning his home. Charley, on returning to the newly reorganized home, complained that he wouldn’t know how to find anything unless the women carefully catalogued their improvements. The request didn’t sound entirely appreciative!)
Mary Ann graduated from Milan C-2 High School a year early, in 1947 (she rarely missed an opportunity to report that she had skipped a grade). She then attended Park College (now Park University) in Parkville, Missouri, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry (a true female pioneer in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with the intent of being a nurse.
Students at Park were then required to work for the college. After a year in the kitchen and dining room Mary Ann was assigned to the Dean’s office. While there she also served as treasurer and reporter for the school newspaper. Decades later, at the time of her retirement from the Standard, Mary Ann wrote that after growing up in a newspaper, editing the high school paper and working for the college paper for two years, “I thought I had (had) enough of newspapers.”
Upon graduation, rather than entering nursing, she trained as an X-Ray technician at Research Hospital and worked in the field in the Kansas City area and at an Army base in Utah for several years. In Idaho she worked, in part, with native Americans some of whom spoke only a native language, which Mary Ann didn’t speak. She remembered suggesting, by pantomime, that her patients remove clothing, sometimes resulting in the wrong forms of undress!
Medical technology, though, proved to be only a temporary escape.
On September 9th, 1953, Mary Ann married Frank Cowgill.
After leaving the Air Force Frank had worked for a cousin, John Cowgill, at Cowgill Chevrolet in Milan. He had also attended, part time, Northeast Missouri State Teacher’s College (now Truman State). He later moved to Kansas City where he worked in the Air Craft Department at the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac plant.
After they were married, as if conspiring to keep Mary Ann in the news business, Frank went to work for the Jackson County Advocate where he worked for eight years.
Along the way Mary Ann and Frank produced three offspring: Robert Michael, Douglas Frank and Cheryl Ann. Their life stories remain works in progress.
After Frank’s years at The Jackson County Advocate Mary Ann’s father, Bob, invited them back to Milan. The Standard was converting to offset printing, a first for a weekly in North Missouri, and Bob felt Frank would be invaluable in converting to and managing the new press.
Frank was made Production Manager of the Standard and when the family acquired the Green City Press Frank served as editor until it was merged into the Standard. Mary Ann, thus, found herself back in the newspaper business, not only as wife of the Production Manager and daughter of the editor, but as a copy setter.
Her father, Bob, died suddenly, of an appendicitis only a year later. Mary Ann described
setting the copy for her father’s obituary, stopping to sob, typing, sobbing, typing and sobbing.
Bob was succeeded as editor by Mary Ann’s brother, Robert Wilson. She left the paper briefly but her brother persuaded her to return to manage the front office, where she remained until she retired in 2014.
Mary Ann lost her first husband, Frank, on July 25, 1994, after 41 years of marriage.
In 2003 Mary Ann, married Charley Clark, whom she had known since first grade. Charley has since written a well-loved weekly historical column for The Milan Standard. He also photographs for the paper and performs a variety of other duties.
Mary Ann remembered, at the time of her retirement, that one of her father’s greatest life lessons was that “the community gave us our living and we need to give back in many ways to the community.” Honoring Bob’s philosophy Mary Ann was the first Treasurer of the Sullivan County Historical Society, President of the Women’s Division of the Sullivan County Country Club and worked with the PTA Band Boosters. She and her friend Corine Downing helped establish the Sullivan Country Library by traveling the county urging people to vote for a tax levy.
Mary Ann was the Choir Director the Milan United Methodist Church for almost fifty years and taught Sunday School for nearly as long. She was also a long-time member of PEO and, briefly, as a Candy Striper at Sullivan County Memorial Hospital. With three children active in all high school sports, band and cheerleading, she also traveled extensively for various Milan Wildcat teams and activities.
Mary Ann contributed to a broader community, too, serving as editor of the Business and Professional Women/USA publication for the state of Missouri (which the Standard printed), President of the Northwest Missouri State Press Association and Treasurer of the Missouri State Press Board. She, Frank and Charley have also been avid Mizzou sports fans.
Reminiscing about her avocations Mary Ann wrote, ”Next to reading, my joy is in music. I helped with the music for (the Old Timer’s talent show) “Thru the Years” (in the mid-‘80’s), and the (Bread of Life Church) “Passion Play,” (in 1994)…I organized a choir for several years for the (Jesus in July) kickoff and I sang in the (community) play “Oklahoma”). I also sang with a mixed quartet and with two women’s groups, going to many nursing homes…and the hospital.”
On retiring from the family newspaper in 2014, Mary Ann wrote, “I am the last of the original Wilson family. Bob, Bertha, Robert and Dave have all died and I am retiring, leaving (the paper) to Suzi Wilson (Robert’s widow) to carry on the Wilson name.”
She wrote, too, of her appreciation for everyone with whom she had worked over the years. She added, “I will also miss the visits with all of our customers, who…seem like family.”
Mary Ann, during her marriage to Charley, boasted that she might be the only person in the county who went to bed with a kiss and woke up to a kiss. She later mentioned that one of the joys of retirement was…”sleeping in ‘til I am ready to get up or (until) Charley shakes me and gives me a big kiss.”
Charley gave her their last kiss at 4:17 a.m. on Saturday, January 6.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 13, with visitation from 9:30 to 11:00, at the Milan United Methodist Church. Rev. Josh Ritzheimer will preside. Music is being organized by Joan Holland. Interment will be in the Oakwood Cemetery in Milan. Pallbearers will be Graeme Cowgill, Robbie Cowgill, Chad Cowgill, Cameron Cowgill, Brendan Nichols, Michel Ashton and Gary Montgomery. Honorary pallbearers will be Cully Cowgill, Stack Cowgill and David Cowgill.
Mary Ann leaves her husband Charley Clark. Also surviving are her children: Mike and his wife Ala, Doug and his wife Jackie, Cherie and her husband Pat; her step-children: Gale Couchman, Betty Quigley and husband, Dave, Gary Couchman and wife Pat, and Judy Helms; her grand-children: Graeme Cowgill, Robbie Cowgill, Anna Marie Cowgill, Chad Cowgill, Cameron Cowgill, Cara Cowgill, Cristin Cowgill Jones, Michel Ashton, Brendan Nichols, Devin Nichols and ten great grandchildren. She also leaves behind innumerable friends and admirers whose lives she touched.
The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, friends and loved ones express their love through donations to Milan United Methodist Church.