Mary Pauline Kiefer Miner 1919 - 2021
The Remarkable Life and Times of a Remarkable Woman
March 21, 1919
Mary Pauline Miner was born on a farmstead a few miles west of Clinton, Missouri, to Florence and Adam Kiefer. Primitive by today’s standards, their two-story wood frame farmhouse had no electricity, no bathroom and no running water. The wood stove in the dining room provided heat. Warmth drifted to bedrooms above through ceiling and floor grates.
December 4, 1942
With enthusiasm the nurse announced: “You have beautiful red-haired boy!” Mary recalled the nurse’s announcement and her pride with Ken, her first-born child. Four years later, Mary doubled her pride when Kurt was born November 18, 1946, and then tripled her pride with Mic’s birth February 22, 1950.
A Lifespan Unrivaled
Like others of the Greatest Generation, Mary witnessed most of 20th century history: the Great Depression, Prohibition, the invention of telephones and radio, World War II, the Model T, the Cold War, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, a man landing on the moon, airline travel, the Vietnam War, hippies, Saddam Hussein, terrorist bombings, and Afghanistan. Mary lived through 18 presidents, beginning with Warren Harding through Joe Biden.
What Mattered Most
Mary’s three sons – Michael, Kurtis and Kenneth – were the white-hot focus of her life
from birth till death. During our school days in the 1950s & 60s, she never tired of keeping three boys clean and groomed. Using her Iron-rite to increase her ironing efficiency, she spent most mornings starching and pressing our school clothes. Mary’s boys were always wrinkle-free.
Our Christian education began in the basement of the Prairie Village Safeway store in the early 1950s before Faith Lutheran Church was built. As her boys grew into adolescence, Mary mandated catechism classes. She remained a steadfast member of Faith Lutheran for 65 years until the church disbanded in 2017. After 2017 and until her death, she prayed with Paster Jon Brudvig.
As Mary grew older, her family grew too – with grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. So did her love. She stepped in to do anything she could to protect all of her “children.”
Tragedy and Triumph
Mary was the definition of brave, resourceful and strong. No one is immune from unexpected crisis and tragedy, but Mary suffered more heart-wrenching, sick-to-your-stomach, life shattering distress than most. Overcoming a series of life tragedies, Mary was a steel pillar of strength… an inspiration to family and friends.
1937- When she was 19, Mary lost her left arm in a car accident.
1941- Fears and anxiety of Pearl Harbor and World War II.
1945- Fears and anxiety of starting a printing business with husband OD Miner.
Mary and OD sold their only car to purchase a used printing press.
Their printing orders were delivered using street cars.
1951- The Great Kansas City Flood destroyed much of her new Prairie Village home.
When the flood waters subsided, Mom rolled up her jeans and cleaned silt and raw sewage.
Mom felt like a traitor leaving Missouri for their new home in Kansas.
1954- Fire totally gutted their Prairie Village home.
1960- Bankruptcy- the IRS seized the family car because the taxes couldn’t be paid.
1977- Another flood collapsed a basement wall in their Prairie Village home.
Through these many adversities, Mary was a quiet pillar of strength. No complaints or outbursts, she was always a steady and loving mother.
Mary did not believe in short-term relief. No quick feel-good medications or intoxicants. Alcohol, no way. Mary was a mother first but also a problem solver. She rolled up her sleeves and fixed problems.
Losing a Limb
Imagine a pretty, 19-year-old girl losing her arm with much of her adult life still to live. Recalling the accident and her recuperation, she said, “I cried a lot.” The four-year college education she desired was dashed by finances. Later, after a three-hour bus ride, she arrived in Kansas City, alone with only $5 or so. She was met by the family she would work for as maid and babysitter. This job helped pay her way through business school.
Mary met her future husband at the Kansas City Artificial Limb Company. Odin Miner was a printer from Minnesota who had also lost a limb. They were married June 14th, 1941.
Our family never noticed Mom’s handicap. Our lives were the same as any other kid. Remarkably, she did everything all the other good mothers did. She worried about being an embarrassment to us boys. She didn’t have to worry. She never was.
As we grew up, we marveled at her ability to overcome limitations. There seemed to be no limitations for her. From opening jars to driving, Mom found a way to do what needed to be done. For example, to change diapers, she would adjust and tuck the folds with safety pins close by. She clamped the diaper (cotton in those days) in her mouth and maneuvered the safety pin to fasten the diaper. She could tie her shoelaces with one hand. There was nothing she couldn’t do with one hand. Everyone else needed two hands to do things. Not our mom.
Mary Did Everything Well
After the early 1960s bankruptcy, our family worked and scratched for every penny. My father’s customer Dun and Bradstreet blessed us with advertising work. Mom typed addresses on D&B envelopes day or night when time allowed. The entire family folded and inserted D&B papers into the envelopes Mom had already addressed. Lots of work, but we had money for food.
Mom bragged she could type faster than most two-handed people.
Mom cooked family dinners every day. On special Sundays, it was fancy dress dinners for Clinton, Missouri, relatives. Only the best silver and fine China. Table clothes, always. No matter what she served, it was as pretty as a Norman Rockwell painting.
As our business grew, Mary filled many roles: bookkeeping, human resources and, on occasion, referee.
With hard work and vision, our kitchen table D&B envelope-stuffing job was transformed into a thriving business. By the early 1990s, our family efforts resulted in manufacturing plants in three states with nationwide sales. An accomplishment not possible without the efforts of Mary Miner.
Mary Miner did not view herself as handicapped. She accomplished more with one arm and one hand than most people with both. Marys’ grit, determination and focus guided her success. Always friendly and respectful, she loved her family above all else.
Mary Miner Humor
A discussion about greatest inventions: “Toilet paper was the greatest invention because the Sears and Roebuck catalog slick pages were very very scratchy.”
At age 92: “I am saving my money for old age.”
In the 1920s when the thrashing crew came to their farmstead, lunch was always served to the sweaty men by the family. Mary was “the iced tea girl.” One of her recollections of farm life: “I will never marry a farmer, because they stink.”
One of Mary’s childhood memories: “I loved it when Bill (her younger brother) and I rode our pony to Zender’s, (a country store five miles west of the farmstead) to get a stick of candy. We each had a nickel!”
At 101 years old when asked if she wanted a DQ Blizzard: “No, my blood sugar is high today.”
Taunting and joking with Ken prior to his double knee replacement: “Can’t you keep up with an old lady?”
Mary exercised with her stationary bike into her 90s, swinging her arm above her head as she pedaled. She ate healthy foods – mostly. KFC chicken was one of Mary’s favorite unhealthy meals. She knew KFC was greasy and high in calories. She considered what she ate and would return to “clean living” after Ken’s visits. Mary would eat foods she didn’t care for just because they were healthy. No sun and no alcohol for Mary.
Mary Pauline Miner was our mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother. She lived a life of accomplishment and family service. Her life, her efforts and her successes rank among the best.
All of us are forever grateful for her life and love.