In Memory of Mary Jane Besch

February 19, 1930 – December 5, 2020

Associate, Mary Jane Besch, was born in Titonka, Iowa, the daughter of Martin Albert and Anna Mary Bleich. She attended Iowa State Teachers College (UNI), earning a two-year teaching certification and went on to teach sixth grade in West Bend, Iowa. Teachers weren’t allowed to date or to attend dances, so Mary Jane and her roommate, another teacher, snuck out to a dance one Saturday night at the Whittemore Plantation where Mary Jane met her future husband, Lawrence Besch.

The couple was married June 14, 1950 and lived on the Besch Family Farm in Whittemore, where they lived for 56 years. Together Lawrence and Mary Jane raised five children, and once her children were old enough, Mary Jane returned to work and became a Head Start teacher in Algona, one of the first in Iowa! She went on to be the Activity Director at Exceptional Opportunities in Burt, Iowa, and at the County Care Facility in Algona, Iowa.

Mary Jane enjoyed spending time with her children, 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, gardening, golfing, reading, bird-watching and playing cards and games. She also loved music, and passed that love on to her entire family. The Besch family sing-a-longs are a long-standing tradition, now enjoyed by four generations. She and Lawrence were a wiz on the dance floor! Mary Jane could often be seen dancing to music around her living room and kitchen.

Mary Jane made her commitment to the Dubuque Presentation Associate Partnership on September 11, 2000 and was a member of the Lantern Keepers associate group in Algona. After Lawrence’s death in 2006, Mary Jane eventually moved to Algona where she was a member of St. Cecelia’s Catholic Church. Once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, Mary Jane lived in Bickford Cottage Assisted Living in Iowa City before moving to West Ridge Nursing Home in Cedar Rapids where her warm smile and bright, delightful personality charmed all who met her. Some things, Alzheimer’s can’t steal! Mary Jane will be missed by many and remembered in love and gratitude.