FORT ATKINSON -

Mary D. Gates, 87, Fort Atkinson, passed away unexpectedly at her home on Thursday, January 16, 2014.

She was born on October 22, 1926 in Fort Atkinson, the daughter of the late Clifford and Lucile (Curtis) Dexheimer.

Mary was married to James Gates on December 28, 1946 in Fort Atkinson. He died on October 20, 1973.

A 1944 Fort Atkinson High School graduate, Gates attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., and then earned her bachelor’s degree in history in 1949 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She later went on at the University and received a Master’s Degree in Library Science in 1974.

Mary served a term on the Fort Atkinson Library Board from 1957-1969. She was hired as a library aide through 1973 and assumed the library director position in January 1974. Mary was in that role at the Dwight Foster Library until her retirement in 1992.

Circulation tripled during her tenure and her greatest pride was the “Room for Books, Room for People” campaign that raised over $420,000 towards the eventual 21,270-square-foot library expansion.

Mary was a member of the Christian Science Church, a member of the Wisconsin Library Association and American Library Association, as well as the Friends of the Library Board of Directors. She was also involved with the Friends of Rose Lake and a member of both the Wisconsin State Historical Society and the Fort Atkinson Historical Society, where she was recognized as “Volunteer of the Year” in 2008.

She enjoyed her Bridge Clubs and lunches with many friends at Café Carpe. She was generous with her time supporting the community including the Hoard Historical Museum, Tuesday Club, Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Heart of the City, and the Girl Scouts.

She was sometimes referred to as “Mayor Mary” or, one of the “Founding Mothers of Fort Atkinson” and beloved by many. The Mary Gates Study Room at the library often hosts students and activities related to literacy. Part of Mary’s legacy will be her devotion to poet Lorine Niedecker. Mary oversaw the collection and care of Lorine’s personal library and began the Friends of Lorine Niedecker.

Outside of books, Mary enjoyed collecting Christmas decorations, particularly Santas, angels and creches. She spent her retirement years golfing, walking, and traveling.

Mary was proud of her family heritage and its place in the community. She most loved being with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and spending time with them in some of her favorite places including Lake Ripley and Door County.

Survivors include two daughters, Jane (Karl) Fossum and Ann (David) Lueder both of Fort Atkinson; two grandchildren, Matthew (Molly) Lueder of Milwaukee and Amy Norris of Fort Atkinson; four great-grandchildren, Madelyn and Charlie Lueder, Emma and Ellie Norris; one sister, Ann “Onnie” (James) Weiss of Fort Atkinson; two nieces, Sandy (David) Street, Nancy (Russ) Putnam; one nephew, James (Robin) Weiss; Kelly Lueder and many special friends.

Burial will be held in the spring at Evergreen Cemetery.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21st at Dunlap Memorial Home.

Memorial services will be held on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, at 10am at The Hoard Historical Museum, with visitation starting at 9am.

There will be a luncheon to follow the service at Café Carpe.

If desired, memorials may be made to the Dwight Foster Library or the Hoard Historical Museum.