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Mary Helliesen stays joyful in retirement, volunteering

Best known as an administrator in the Gloucester and Mathews school divisions, Dr. Mary Helliesen of Cobbs Creek, now retired, has a philosophy that has guided her. A maxim on her refrigerator states: “Stay joyful and at peace with yourself!”

Mary grew up in the small town of Petosky, Michigan, in a family of seven children, attending the same Catholic school, St. Francis Xavier, from elementary through high school.

Her mother was insistent that her children would attend college even though as a family they were very poor. Mary could walk from home to the local community college, North Central Michigan College, “just down the hill,” and earned her associate’s degree there with a concentration in French. She attended the University of Michigan for one year but returned home and worked as a telephone operator to help her family financially.

Her education continued at Western Michigan University, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and teaching in the Portage sc...

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