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Mary Dale Flanagan

“Where are the ham sandwiches being served?” Mary Dale asked the man standing next to her as the mass ended.

“Come, I’ll show you,” Brendan Flanagan offered.

Thus began a discussion that revealed a coincidence. Years earlier they had met in Lake Geneva where Mary was a waitress and Brendan, the customer. Their conversation continued, eventually climaxing in a marriage that has already endured for 16 years.

Members of Learning in Retirement may know Mary as the coordinator of the “Writing Your Life Story” course. Twice she has led the class, and she plans to teach it again in September. She finds pleasure in encouraging individuals to write down what they recall of their past, straightening out the episodes and telling how it really was! She has completed two books of life stories and is currently working on the third.

As active members of LIR, Brendan and Mary enjoy the offerings of others who share their interests with the members. They particularly enjoyed the visit to the Hearthstone in Appleton and the tour of homes down Prospect Avenue, where Mary’s grandparents had built a home. Most of all, they value meeting the variety of folks who have joined LIR. Mary believes that people who want to learn are always interesting.

Outside her LIR activities, Mary keeps busy with a variety of interests. She is an avid reader; and she enjoys playing bridge, doing crossword puzzles, playing with the computer and, of course, writing.

She also takes great joy in her family: seven children and 18 grandchildren. Scattered throughout the country, the siblings and their families remain close friends. Their mother is proud of their close relationships.

She was a widow, and she is happy that she could see each of her children through college, ensuring them marketable skills. Her family also provides a constant source of story material.

In 1943 Mary received a bachelor’s degree in primary education from what was then Oshkosh State Teachers College. She earned a master’s degree in special education at UW Madison.

While she was teaching special education in Butler, Ala., her first husband died of a stroke. About the same time, she was invited to begin a doctoral program at the University of Alabama. She was assigned research work at the UW Whitewater.

Another coincidence?

It was easy to accept the offer of a special education assistant professorship at UW Oshkosh, where she taught 15 years before retiring in 1987. (I was one of Mary’s admiring colleagues throughout those 15 years, and I remember her as an upbeat, creative, enthusiastic and dedicated teacher and friend.)

Mary plans to continue her involvement in LIR -good news for all of us. She believes that LIR provides opportunities for retirees who seek answers to new or old questions and who are willing to pursue new learning.

Her motto: Never be afraid to ask, “Where are the ham sandwiches?”