On Monday, June 1, 2020, at the age of 89 years, 5 months and 4 days, the matriarch of our family, Mary Ann Ulmer Schafer, made one final journey, ascending to heaven on the wings of angels. Oh, what a beautiful moment in eternity it must be, being embraced within the loving arms of her Savior, and reunited with her husband, family and friends that preceded her in death. Mother was a member of the Emmanuel Reformed Church in Sutton and was baptized on Sunday, March 15, 1931. She received an education at Sunnyside (No. 20), a Clay County Country School.
Mary Ann was born on Sunday, December 28, 1930 at home on the family farm approximately one mile west and four-and-a-half miles south of Sutton, Nebraska. She was the tenth child and fourth daughter of Gottlob J Ulmer, a German immigrant born in southern Russia (modern day Ukraine); and fifth child and third daughter to Louisa Regina Ulmer, née Klaudt, born in Greenway, South Dakota. Her siblings are Ruben, Friedhold, Ruth, Benjamin, Milton, Ernst Heinrich, Anna Margaret, Esther Louise, Herbert Donald, Doris, Louise Mae, Jeanette and Robert Paul Ulmer. Mary Ann’s four eldest siblings were predeceased by their mother, Leah Fehr in 1918, and her fifth eldest brother by his mother, Christina Schochenmaier in 1920.
As a young woman, while still at home in Sutton, she waited tables for Ruben Griess at the Paris Café, and later for Dan Sorgenfrei at his 66 Café. During the latter years of the 1950’s, she and her youngest sister Jeanette moved to Lincoln to work and shared an apartment. There she met her future husband, George Herman Schafer, as he was stationed at Lincoln AFB, and she was employed by the confectioner Russell Stover Candy Company. After a day at work wearing a protective hair net, the appearance of mom’s hair at the end of her shift led him to give her the nickname “Slick” that carried onward. The two lovebirds traveled to meet his mother, father and family in Petersburg, Illinois, where he spent most of his youth growing up. In that community on Monday, August 17, 1959 they were wed. Thereafter, they were in Connecticut and New York while dad was receiving specialized training. He then received orders to Vandenburg AFB, California. While stationed there, she was employed as a loan officer at a federal credit union on base. He later was sent to Kadena AFB in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan and she and her son stayed in Sutton. When he returned, the family headed West and made Arizona home. Later in life, to remain active, she flagged for a crop duster, the company of a family friend, K & K Aerial Applicators. She also enjoyed many other pursuits in and around her home, such as crocheting and knitting to pass the time. She read her newspaper each morning, generally accompanied by toast and coffee. You might also find her reading a book or magazine, or out in the yard grooming her flowers, trees and lawn. She was a phenomenal cook and credits her mother’s instruction; whether they were ethnic German foods such as runza, sauerkraut, pastries, cinnamon rolls, fruit, anise or springerle cookies, cakes, pies, kuchen, divinity, bread, soups, dumplings and the list goes on. She had a special relationship with her daughter-in-law, Monica, for over three decades, and that did not change as her health declined. She was also fiercely independent, and we believe that it was her drive and determination that helped her do so well for so long.
When her sweetheart received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, mom remained home to care for him. Dad passed away on Friday, January 20, 1989. Having been apart for over 31 years, she and dad are surely enjoying a grand reunion. One of the most remarkable occasions in my life as their son, was to observe my parents holding hands in the minutes leading up to the moment my father drew his last breath. Without a single word said, I could clearly see the expression of a deep and abiding love when their eyes met and remained focused on one another. That spoke volumes. The experience for me to see the depth of their love, an affection that would never fade, was extraordinary.
Mary Ann was preceded in death by her husband: George; parents: Gottlob and Louisa; and ten siblings: Ruben Ulmer (Vera Ruth Ulmer née Mumby); Friedhold Ulmer (Geneice Mary Ulmer née Meyer); Ruth Chadwick, née Ulmer (William Roland Chadwick; Benjamin Ulmer (Irene Devee Ulmer, née Meyer); Milton Ulmer (Esther Anne Ulmer, née Maher); Ernst Heinrich Ulmer, Anna Margaret Becker, née Ulmer (Paul David Becker); Esther Louise Willis, née Ulmer (Roy Hobert Willis); Herbert Donald Ulmer and Jeanette Rose, née Ulmer (Donald Leonard Rose). Also predeceased by niece: Diane Kay Becker; and nephews: Virgil David Ulmer, Dale LeRoy Ulmer, Milan Scott Willis and an infant son of the Rose family.
Mary Ann is survived by her son: Gregory Jay Schafer and daughter in-law: Monica Ann Schafer, née Heying, of Delta, UT; three grandsons:, Benjamin Greyson Cody Schafer of Kearns, UT, George Jakob Graham Schafer and Jay Granger Schafer of Delta, UT; and one great-granddaughter: Cheralyn Caitlin Lovell, of West Valley City, UT. She leaves behind her sister-in-law: Myrna Jeanne Ulmer, née Holtz, of Sutton, NE; sister: Doris Smith, née Ulmer of Burleson, TX; sister: Louise Mae Hoffmann, née Ulmer; brother-in-law: Donald Mark Hoffmann of Pierce, NE; and brother: Robert Paul Ulmer and sister-in-law Betty Ann Segred Ulmer (née Almquist) of Davis, CA; ten nephews and fourteen nieces.
Years ago, mom directed there be no funeral when she passed. She will be cremated and interred with her husband at the Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery in Chandler, Arizona. Should family and friends be so inclined, in lieu of flowers or plants, we are confident that mom would be appreciative of a charitable donation made in her memory to the Alzheimer’s Association to aid in research for a cure of both Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Our family would like to express our most sincere gratitude to all personnel at Millard Care & Rehabilitation for their gentle, kind, empathetic manner when caring for our mother. We also extend our appreciation to Alan R. Smith, M.D., who was her physician for nearly 27 years.