Just three weeks shy of her 90th birthday, Mary Helen (Brecher) Alderson passed away
peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones at Ramsey Village in Des Moines, Iowa on Friday,
March 2, 2018. Her funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m., on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at
Plymouth Congregational Church (4126 Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines), interment will be at
On a sunny day on March 27, 1928, Mary Helen Brecher was born at her grandmother’s home in
Pipestone, Minnesota to Newton and Minnie Brecher. She joined her brother, Howard, who was
three and a half years old. Mary grew up on her parent’s farm near Cazenovia (Caz), Minnesota.
She loved all the farm animals. Her family’s farm was 1/4 mile from Caz. The town had an
elevator, black smith, tavern, grocery store and free outdoor movies on Saturday nights. She used
to carry fresh milk every evening to some families in Caz.
Mary went to Country School District #64 for eight years where she loved participating in annual
Christmas Programs at Town Hall and attending Bible School during the summer months.
She traveled by bus to attend Pipestone High School, graduating in 1945. After graduation, she
hoped to find a bookkeeping job and started working at the Pipestone County Courthouse in the
Register of Deeds Office. She typed many service discharges.
Mary met Oran Alderson while roller skating, and on January 25, 1948 they were married. They
lived in Pipestone for one year and then moved to a farm in Fountain Prairie Township, six miles
west of Ruthton, Minnesota. Their daughters were born shortly thereafter – June and Connie.
In 1967, the family stopped farming and moved back to Pipestone due to Oran’s health. Mary
went back to work at the courthouse. When Mary’s boss decided to retire, she ran for office and
became the Pipestone County Recorder and had her own abstract business. Oran passed away
from lung cancer in September 1983. Mary continued to run for office and held her position for
16 years. During these years, she spent a lot of time with her father, Newt, and cared for him
until his death in 1994. Mary retired in December 1994 and moved to Johnston, Iowa in
November 1995 to be closer to family whom she loved.
Mary was a renaissance woman and a constant inspiration to her family and friends. A very busy
lady, she was always ready to dive-in and help, and up for trying something new. Throughout
Mary’s life she had a strong faith in God and was active in her church. She took up golf and
piano later in life as well as swimming, quilting and Bridge. Upon moving to Johnston, she got
involved and made new friends quickly. Through the years, Mary was an active volunteer by
participating in the Johnston Lions Club, Iowa Public Television, Hospice House in Johnston,
Terrace Hill, Child Serve and was a Grandfriend with the Johnston Schools.
She loved hot, sunny days and spending time outside – always making time for a delicious
margarita from El Mariachi. She enjoyed exercising at Oakmoor (water aerobics was a favorite
as well as getting together for coffee afterward) and walking on the Johnston trails near her home
(averaging four miles a day!). She was a terrific baker, her brownies and lemon poppy seed bread
were very popular! Ice cream was a favorite – there was “always room for ice cream” no matter
what time of year! Mary loved using her hands to make beautiful things, especially in the cold
winter months. She crafted beautiful quilts, crocheted baby blankets, made table decorations and
more (wonderful keepsakes for many). She traveled domestically and internationally with friends
and family (even on bus trips with the Pipestone Marching Band!). Mary adored animals,
especially cats. She delighted in spending time with her family and friends and made staying in
touch a priority. She was genuine, dependable, generous, loving, brave, intelligent, hard working,
caring, strong, helpful, more than a little stubborn, gave great back rubs, had a heart of gold and
was a rock for many. Mary played an important role in her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren’s
upbringing, attending their activities and watching them grow. She loved family
time, saying “It’s all about family.” Mary was referred to as Grandma by many.
Mary is survived by her two daughters June Mackay of Des Moines and Connie Alderson of
Anchor Point, Alaska; six grandchildren: Kristin Carlson (and husband Scott), Paul Braunger,
Benay Eagen (and husband Robert), Kelly Mackay, Ian Mackay and James Breyfogle; four
great-grandchildren: Leigh, Garrett and Wyatt Carlson and Alder Eagen; and her cat Bubbles.
She is preceded in death by her husband Oran Alderson, great-grandaughter Megan Mary
Carlson, and beloved family and friends.
Mary’s family would like to thank her friends and neighbors for the love, support and help they
so wonderfully gave her over the years and especially during the last three years as she battled
cancer. Mary’s radiation oncologist Dr. Colletier, oncologist Dr. Freeman, surgeon Dr. Raman,
as well as other doctors, nurses and staff are so appreciated for their knowledge, expertise, care,
compassion and work to help Mary every time she said “what can we do?” And, special thanks to
the nurses and staff at Ramsey Village who made Mary comfortable throughout her time there.
She sure loved cleaning up at BINGO!
Memorials may be directed to the ARL or Johnston Lion’s Club.