July 10, 2021
On the morning of July 5, lifelong Picktownian and retired middle school teacher Mary Nicodemus passed away. She was 74.
Mary grew up as the second of Ivan and Alta Nicodemus’ five children on a farm off Refugee Road. She helped with gathering the eggs and tending the garden. When she was older, she and her siblings would help freeze the vegetables and butcher the pigs, ducks and chickens. (Their “Pop” paid someone else to butcher the beef.)
“We had Muscovy ducks,” said her sister Susie Fetters. “They were always loaded with pin feathers. Unlike the ducks you can buy in stores, Muscovies have very little fat under the skin. If you skinned them before cooking, they were very dry, so we roasted them skin and all. We were supposedly going to take the skin and also the pin feathers off before we ate the meat. Never happened! We ate a lot of pinfeathers!”
From first grade through high school, Mary would join her siblings on their cousin Clayton’s bus to the Pickerington School. (Kindergarten was not offered at the time.)
There were not enough students to comprise a second class for both first and second grades, so even though her cousin Lyle Turley was a year older, they shared a teacher. That year they put on a play, Three Billy Goats Gruff.
“I still remember watching her shove Lyle across the stage,” Susie said. “Wasn’t part of the play!”
After graduating from Pickerington School in 1965, Mary attended the Ohio State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education. She then completed her master’s degree at the University of Miami in Oxford.
Right out of college in 1969, Mary was offered a job teaching in Baltimore, which she turned down because she did not want to “smell that paper mill every day”. However, that fall Pickerington School hired her to teach fourth grade at the same building that she had attended as a child.
“One of the first years she taught, she had a room in the back of the old building,” Susie said. “Doors and windows were open. Grandpa’s buddy (Floyd) Mauger was working in the cemetery. Mauger was not having a good day and was using lots of bad words! She tromped out to him and told him he was teaching more English than she was!”
Over the years as the village of Pickerington grew, the “school on the hill” was no longer large enough to hold all the students so a high school was built on Hill Road. The first subdivisions including Root Edition and Meadowbrook popped up then more followed. When her health forced Mary to retire in 2006, the Pickerington Local School District encompassed thirteen separate buildings.
“Mary dedicated her life to others,” said colleague and friend Denise Luther. “She spent 37 years as an educator in Pickerington Schools, making a difference in countless lives. She had high expectations for her students, and they flourished under her guidance.”
“She shared her gift of art with her students by incorporating creativity into her lessons. Her appreciation of nature was passed on to students through her coordination and participation in the district’s outdoor education program. Mary’s patience was evident each day as she sat with struggling students until they were able to grasp difficult math concepts. Even after retiring, Mary returned to Diley Middle School as a volunteer to tutor math students several days each week throughout the school year. Mary was born to be a teacher. It was a role she took very seriously and at which she excelled,” Denise said.
“Mary’s generosity often flew under the radar as she did not seek recognition for helping others. She donated not only her time, but also her talents. Mary was an exceptional cook and baker. She readily made her amazing pumpkin rolls each year as a fundraiser to help with Diley’s Adopt-a-Family Project.”
“She also patiently shared her gift of painting with her colleagues by hosting beginner painting gatherings at her home. Many hours were spent playing cards at Mary’s kitchen table, accompanied with sampling some of her homemade treats and taking mini field trips into that oasis of a backyard of hers. She had a green thumb like none other and generously offered cuttings of her plants and flowers to others. Mary naturally knew how to grow things: flowers, students, friendships, and others.”
Karen Loeffler also remembers Mary fondly.
“My first memories of Mary are from my son’s sixth grade math class,” Karen said. “He told me that she was one of his favorite teachers – high praise from him. I took a position as a counselor at the middle school and she was now my colleague. She was an amazing teacher. She was tough and tender, demanding and caring. She did not suffer fools – gladly or otherwise. You always knew where you stood with her. She was seemingly unafraid of anyone or anything.”
“She had a great sense of humor, and you could see her laughter in her smile, and in her eyes. That is how I will remember her – with laughter.”
Although she never had any of her own, Mary served as a second mother for her nieces and nephews. Her nephew Jake Nicodemus knew that family was important to her.
“A couple of months back, I was an hour or so into my workday when I sent Aunt Mary a ‘Good Morning’ text message,” Jake said. “She didn’t immediately answer, and so I assumed she was otherwise occupied. An hour went by. I sent her another text message. Again, no response. I began to worry. I tried a third time. Nothing. I advised my manager that something must be wrong and that I needed to go check on her. Heart racing, I ran out of work just in time to get a text: ‘Sorry, went to Amish Country.’”
“That’s the thing – The delayed response was alarming only because Aunt Mary was ALWAYS there for people. Had a bad day? Aunt Mary will listen. Have a funny story? Aunt Mary will enjoy it. Want to go on an adventure? Aunt Mary will hold the map while you drive.”
“I’ve tried to put into words who my aunt was, but I can’t do it. There simply aren’t words to accurately describe someone who was as strong, intelligent, funny, kind, and generous as she was. People often have one or two really good friends who they love like family. I’m so thankful to have known my Aunt Mary, who I loved like a really good friend.”
She loved to travel. In the summers she would drive across the country with her little sister, Peggy Hensley, usually with a couple of kids bouncing around in the backseat. In later years, she would circle the world with the senior center – sailing in Fiji, sampling limoncello in Italy, picnicking at the home of a New Zealand shepherd.
There will be visitation hours for those wishing to pay their respects at the Dwayne R Spence Funeral home at 550 Hill Road North, Pickerington on Thursday, July 15, from 5 to 8 pm.
Her family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made either to the Pickerington Food Pantry or to Heath Scofield’s Eagle Scout project to construct walking paths through the woods at Violet Township’s Wigwam. To donate to the food pantry click here.
Heath is Mary’s great nephew. To donate to his project, the Venmo address is @BSA_Troop_256 or you can write a check to “BSA Troop 256” with “Mary Nicodemus” on the memo line. Checks may be dropped off during the calling hours or mailed to Heath at: 125 Gayle Drive, Pickerington, Ohio 43147.
Tributes to Mary can be submitted via the Dwayne R Spence website.