Mary L Calkum

Mary passed away on June 27, 2019 after a brief battle with cancer.


Mary was born on March 21, 1932, to Harry A. Scherrer and Lucille (Dillon) Scherrer on the family’s ranch northwest of Limon where she lived most of her life.  As a child she survived scarlet fever in the early years of the depression but emerged relatively unscathed.  The youngest of eight children, Mary enjoyed active games, rough-housing and shooting. At one point her elder sister, Irma, tried to teach her to be a girl and not a Tom-boy, a failed enterprise according to Mary. 


She attended grade-school at the one-room, Rock-Ledge school house north of River Bend.  She attended Limon High school, driving to and from school in a handed-down 193 Oldsmobile that neither of her brothers would have been caught dead in.  Mary graduated second in her class from LHS in 1950 with awards in music and journalism.  She played saxophone, was an accomplished pianist.


After high school Mary worked the ranch in Limon with her father and rotated to Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming to help her sisters with growing families.  In the winter of 1952- 53 Mary lived in Cheyenne, working for the Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics producing birth, death and citizenship records.  She described this as a ‘fascinating job’, where her High School Latin proved helpful in the interpretation of records submitted in Italian and Spanish. 


When her brother Donald joined the Marines and was deployed to Korea, Mary returned to Limon to again assist her parents at the ranch.  She worked part time for five  years as social editor at the Limon Leader in addition to helping at (the local) Wonder’s grocery a couple days a week.  After 5 years at the Leader Mary took a job at Slysher’s Bakery in Limon where she started fast paced days at 6:00 a.m. after rising at 4:00 to do the ranch chores.  She later observed that the difficult hours fostered an appreciation for the beauty of early mornings and starlight on the snow. 


She spent each day making innumerable loaves of fresh bread and as many as 50 pies for local restaurants.  The bakery also prepared specialty cakes for weddings and other events and though that duty fell to the owner, she managed to pick up those skills as well.  ….  The Slysher’s downsized the bakery in the early 1960’s, relocating behind the old Houtz Drugs on Main Street.   Mary left the Bakery and began working at Mountain View Electric, a job she also greatly enjoyed. 


Mary began dating Leonard Calkum shortly after the bakery relocated and the couple were married on June 15, 1964.  They settled at her parents homestead northwest of Limon. Mary left her job at Mountain View electric in 1965 and threw her energy into additions to the ranch house and fitting out the home for their new life.  Starting in 1966 the couple had five children; Julie, Steven, Rodney, Nanette, and Elon. 


Leonard worked for Western Electric, the installer for Bell Telephone systems, which required long trips away from home.  He got a job with the Colorado Dept of Transportation in 1972 so he could be home.      


While the children were young, Mary stayed at home to care for the kids, tend the small cow-calf operation and manage other varied livestock, including hand milking dairy cows and tending to the horses, lambs, pigs and chickens.  In additional to beef, the farm produced milk, cream, butter and eggs which were sold in town.  Mary was an avid gardener and raised large vegetable and flower gardens each year, getting a head start with seedlings in the south windows before the spring.  She drew great joy and satisfaction from the productivity of the gardens.  She later reminisced that locking in the years’ efforts on basement shelves stocked with canned food was deeply rewarding and one of the things she missed most as the years passed and her capacity diminished.


With 5 kids in 4H, the livestock inventory swelled to include rabbits, sheep and at one point pheasants, quail and a couple of deeply disagreeable white geese.  She was deeply dedicated to 4H, serving as the General Leader for the Rocking 4H club for 20 years. 


As the children advanced in school, Mary went to work at the Safari Motel in Limon, returning home each day in time for the afternoon chores and substantially run the operations of the ranch.  Over the years, Mary also worked as a cook at Prairie View, Fireside Café and JC’s Deli. .( As the children advanced through school, Mary worked at local motels; and as a cook and baker at local restaurants, as well as a dietary coordinator at Prairie View Nursing Home.

 Mary was a lifelong member of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church and active in the Ladies’ Sodality during her younger years.  She and Leonard financially supported seminarians, numerous ‘adopted’ children overseas and other charities.  She was an avid music lover, who encouraged that same love in her children.  She could be heard playing piano in stolen moments throughout her life, even into her later years as aging hands tried to deny her.


Holidays were a paramount observance and Mary poured dozens of hours into preparation of a progression of seasonally specific meals leading up to and on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.  With each annual repetition, her family was treated to the benefits of her years as a pastry chef and baker as well as the produce of the gardens and pastures.  The annual 4th of July family reunion was another seasonal benchmark, preceded by a day of preparing picnic food and making ice-cream.  The tradition was established in her childhood and thrived under her curation.  Immediate, extended and ‘adopted’ family members, will all fondly recall the decades of summer picnics, only a few of which were rained-out. 


Through the course of fifty five years as a ranch wife and mother, Mary ran a constantly humming kitchen, mid-wifed cattle and sheep, performed emergency first aid for a broad range of veterinary and pediatric injuries and ongoing maladies, managed the lives and schedules of 5 growing kids, mentored them in 4H, school and music; was counselor and confidant, chauffeur, cook and constable; butcher, baker, barber; housekeeper and dispenser of ‘hell-to-pay’.  She was Mom, Grandma,  Aunt,  friend and  wife.  We will treasure always her unflagging effort and constant support and love.


She is preceded in death by her parents, by her seven brothers and sisters; Louise Claypoole, Harry Scherrer, Margaret Mohatt, Elmer Scherrer, Irma Williamson, Hugh Scherrer and Donald Scherrer; her Nephew Bob Mohatt, her niece, Kathy McEowen and one grandchild, Leonard Paul Bucanhao Calkum. 


She is survived by her husband, Leonard, five children: Julie Elliott and husband Thom, Steve and wife Liza, Rodney and wife Tasha, Nanette Peeters and husband Pete, and Elon and wife Indira; 10 Grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.