Mary Elizabeth Powell was born April 12, 1922, in Stromsburg, Neb. to Carl and Clara Hibbs Powell. She lived a full life and died in Gordon, Neb. on December 12, 2011, at the age of 89.
The important thing to Mary was always her family. Her devotion to her own family and years of arduous genealogy was well-known. She filled shelves of notebooks with her research, writing, and photos, leaving a rich legacy of family information and inspiration. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband of 32 years, Floyd Heath, her second husband of 9 years, Bud Leapley, her daughter Marian Ostrander, and her grandson Frank Heath.
She is survived by her children: Judy Heath of Fort Collins, Colo. (daughter Jennifer Benson); Jim Heath (son Kevin-2 children; daughter Rebecca- 1 child) and wife Janet Heath of Cody, Neb.; and Francis Heath and wife Doris of Cody, (son Michael Heath). She’s survived by Marian’s husband Dean Ostrander of Broken Bow, Neb. and their children Deanna Muellner of Omaha, Neb. (3 children), Mark Ostrander of Broken Bow, Neb. (4 children and 4 grandchildren), and Cary and Shelly Ostrander of Houston, Texas (2 children). Mary also has a stepson, Ron Leapley, of Coleridge, Neb., step-grandsons Ken and Doug Wirth of Mo., who have four children.
She was known for her love of the land and cattle and for her hard work beside her husband on the ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska—and later, on the farm in northeastern Nebraska. She always demonstrated extraordinary strength and perseverance in the face of recurring challenges including financial hardships on the ranch, serious injury and death of her husband Floyd, years of widowhood, ovarian cancer twice with chemotherapy, loss of her husband Bud, loss of her grandson Frank, and loss of her daughter Marian. After the age of 80, she had four major surgeries including three brain surgeries and major back surgery that required months of hard work for rehabilitation each time. She never gave up and focused on what she could do, remaining mentally sharp and determined to the end.
Mary had common sense, intelligence, and desire for continued learning. She had great integrity, and was independent, determined, resourceful, intelligent, loving, kind, compassionate, and accepting. She was truly a “can do,” salt-of-the-earth woman who was an inspiration to many. She was greatly loved and will be so missed by her family and friends. The world needs more Mary’s.
Funeral services for Mary were held Thursday, Dec. 15 at the United Methodist Church in Cody. Pastors Tom Lucas and Tom Cobb officiated. Burial followed at Prairie Lawn Cemetery in Cody. Memorials may be made to the United Methodist Church in Cody or the Sandhills Rescue Crew in Merriman. Sandoz Chapel of the Pines in Valentine was entrusted with service arrangements.