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Mary Ellen Kerr Gee

A brief Biography by her son Ivin L. Gee

Mary Ellen Kerr Gee was born November 26, 1831 at Richmond, Cache County, Utah. She was the oldest of ten children born to Marion Joseph Kerr, and Ella Rebecca Merrill.

As the oldest child she attended many public events with her father, dances, church meetings, debates and plays. M. J. (Marion Joseph) often participated in these events. He loved to be in the limelight, debating, acting, playing, and singing.

Mother thought the wind blowing through the trees that surrounded the Richmond home made the most mournful sound, so when the wind would blow she would gather her brothers and sisters around her and sit on the front porch and cry.

Grandmother Kerr was a disciplinarian. When mother and Jody quarreled she would sent them into the yard to get willows. Then she would say to mother, "You don't like Jody and he doesn't like you, so you whip him and he will whip you." this always ended up in no whipping but embraces and tears.

She attended school in Richmond, riding to school in a cart made by her brother Jody.

The family moved to Ora, Idaho when Mary was fourteen years of age. They lived in a log house that grandmother fixed up to be the finest house in the community. She covered the ceiling with factory (a starched cloth), then whitewashed the walls. The floors were covered with homemade rugs-there was a large kitchen then a large bedroom-living room. This room was divided by curtains into four sleeping rooms. This seemed enough and to spare, so the schoolteacher often boarded with the Kerrs.

The first school Mary attended in Ora was taught by W. E. Gee. She thought he was an old man and he thought she was a silly little girl. She remembers being asked several times to conjugate the word "love". She would look at the teacher and be embarrassed, and all the other children would titter and laugh.

Mother attended Ricks academy and received her teaching certificate. She taught one year in Ora, then was given a contract to teach at Grant, Idaho. After one year teaching in Grant she married W. E. Gee in the Salt Lake temple on September 10, 1902. Their wedding supper was given by great grandmother Rawlins and the guests were Utahís senator Joseph L. Rawlins and his family. The next morning mother went to Grant to begin her second year of teaching and father stayed in Salt Lake with Jody who was very ill.

Agnes Hogan taught in the lower grades at Grant the first year, and Ellen Murray taught them the second year. Ellen was a schoolmate of the Ricks academy days, and a close and life-long friend of mother's.

Maryís salary was $50.00 per month and was one of the highest in the county. The second year of their marriage father went to A. C. (Utah Agricultural College in Logan) to school while mother taught. Mother became ill during the last part of the year and father filled out her contract.

In 1903 they moved to Rexburg and mother taught in the city schools of Rexburg for two years. Each Friday afternoon her schoolroom would have a program of songs, speeches, poetry and plays. The children loved it and were the envy of the whole school.

In 1906 William Marion, the first of their five sons was born. The others were Ivin Lafayette, Lynn Lamar, Merrill Kerr, and Vernon Ray. Mother was indeed busy with caring for her husband, sons and the church to say nothing of her cultural and civic interests.

In Rexburg mother belonged to the Sorosis club and the R.L.E. (Rexburg literary and educational) club. She enjoyed the refinement and sociability of these organizations. She looked forward to the annual R.L.E. party with husbands who were all active church members, so they had much in common and these occasions were most enjoyable.

In Pocatello, mother belonged to the art and travel club, the Pocatello literary club for 20 years and was very active in the Daughters of Utah Pioneers- she was historian for several years and wrote and compiled an impressive number of histories, but never took time to write her own story.

She was active in church all her life. In Ora she was organist, Sunday school secretary and treasurer, and sang in the ward choir. She was the stake primary president for the years she lived in St. Anthony. In Rexburg she was on the stake board of the YWMIA, ward and stake president of the primary. During her 14 years as stake primary president they made a table picture of the pioneer trail from Nauvoo to Salt Lake, showing twelve of the most important places on the trail. There were covered wagons, handcarts, oxen, horses, cows, people, blacksmith shops and the temple. The display took the entire south wall of the Rexburg tabernacle. They worked hard to teach the leaders and the children folk dances- they began to serve hot meals for the conference visitors on Saturday and Sunday- they raised several thousand dollars toward the price of the grand piano for the tabernacle. They were diligent in visiting the ward primaries. They did have their problems- on one trip to Plano they had 7 flat tires.

When the folks left Rexburg the primary and Sunday school stake boards gave them a party in the tabernacle. Several hundred people came to pay their respects and gave them some beautiful pictures.

In Pocatello mother taught Sunday school, the class of boys that no one else could handle. They loved and respected her and one member of that class paid a glowing tribute to her at the funeral service.

She taught in the MIA and was the theology teacher in the Relief Society for 16 years, and was on the Relief Society stake board for 14 years- she thoroughly enjoyed going to Relief Society conference in Salt Lake as she had done for years with the primary organization.

Mother was an inspirational speaker. She memorized her talks and used poetry freely in her speaking. She loved literature and poetry- she memorized volumes of it and enjoyed quoting from the best authors. She had appropriate quotations for all occasions- she used her talents to produce appropriate verses for many special occasions.

She had some of the crusading zeal of her father. When things were not right she did not hesitate to speak or write her protest to the people who could or should do something about it. She was fearless in her defense of right, a wonderful friend and devoted wife and mother.

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 Life Sketch of Mary Ellen Kerr Gee

Given at her funeral by

Emily Romish

I am happy and deeply touched to be so honored as to be asked by brother Gee and the family to read this brief sketch of the life of sister Mary Gee, it is with humility and fear but I pray I shall be able to do justice to this calling- no mere recital of events can possibly bring to our minds the love, the sacrifice, the unselfishness, the thoughtfulness, the courage, the loyalty of this fine woman. Her life is the symbol of a true Latter-Day Saint. I only hope that I can tell you the story in such a way that you can catch the glint of the beauty and nobility that was hers. The dull gray sky of November must have lightened and let the sun shine through for it was November 24,1881, when Mary Kerr was born at Richmond, Cache County, Utah, the oldest child of Marion Joseph and Ella Merrill Kerr, who gave her a wonderful heritage.

Her home was a typical Latter-Day Saint home where family prayer, blessing on the food, administration by elders in time of sickness, devotion and obedience to parents, brothers and sisters, faithfulness in performance of church duties were observed. Music played an important part in their home, almost every evening the family would gather around the organ and sing the hymns of the church.

The oldest of ten children, she assumed great responsibility very young as, her mother's health was not good. They lived on a large farm where there was much work to be done, cooking for men, caring for milk, making butter, canning fruits and vegetables plus the many never ending tasks that come from farm living, but it was a happy life exemplifying sincere love. Mary started school at age 8, she had to walk two miles to the schoolhouse. In May 1895 the family moved to Ora, Fremont County, Idaho, this same year she was sustained as secretary-treasurer and organist of the Sunday school, serving in this capacity for ten years.

She attended school here going to a small log schoolhouse on snowshoes- she then attended a tuition school taught by William E. Gee who later became her husband. She also attended Fremont stake academy at Rexburg, now known as Ricks College, here she received a teacher's certificate and taught school at Ora, Idaho two terms. Was principal at Grant, Idaho two years. Taught at Poplar, Idaho one year, then at Rexburg, Idaho several years. I am sure she was an outstanding teacher as her love for young people and helping them to do their best has ever been her desire.

Mary was married to William E. Gee September 19, 1902 in the Salt Lake temple. Together they launched upon their lives of unremitting service to their family, church and friends. In their plan of life they held two ideals for their children, first that they should be well-born and second they were well kept, taught the gospel and all the finer worthwhile things in life, they helped and encouraged them to attain the highest goals in their chosen profession, as you well know they have accomplished these goals. A partnership with God is motherhood, what wisdom, what patience, what self-control must be hers who helps God fashion an immortal soul. Brother and sister Gee were blessed with five sons professor emeritus W. Marion Gee, Pocatello; Ivin L. Gee, Lander, Wyoming; professor Lynn L. Gee, Stillwater, Oklahoma; Merrill K. Gee attorney Pocatello, Idaho; Dr. Vernon R. Gee Redding, California. No task was too great to under take if it would help these precious sons attain their goals. Days of toil, nights of worry, sleepless hours beside them in sickness, hours spent studying with them, were all forgotten as she watched each grow and develop into manhood.

Sister Gee lived a full, active life. She served faithfully in every calling made of her, religion class, ward and stake primary president in Yellowstone stake, stake primary president in Fremont (now Rexburg) stake, there it was my privilege to serve under her, as a young girl she taught me so much. I learned to appreciate her worth, she was able to rise to any occasion, her words of counsel and wisdom will always be remembered by me. Her talents grew because she gave of them so willingly, she could write verse and I am sure many of you have heard some she has written, I have many treasured ones she has written for me- let me share with you one she wrote when my dear mother passed away:

 

"Somewhere beyond the sunset

Where loveliness never dies

She lives in a land of glory

With the blue and gold of the skies

And we who have known and loved her

Whose passing has brought sad tears

Will cherish her memory always

To brighten the coming years.

And e'er long we shall meet and know her

In the realm of endless day

When our tasks on earth are finished

And we too must go away

Great and many the reunions

In that land of yet to be

Where there'll be no more sad partings

In God's eternity."

 All of her long life she had the power to lift the hearts of the downcast, bring warm, light and comfort to those in sorrow and trouble. She loved the youth, she shared their joys and sorrow, they came to her with their confidences, never came to her heart hungry but she fed them, eased and gave solace, she never told others of her deeds of mercy and kindness.

Her faith was everlasting, her shining courage was a challenge to all who heard her cheery words and saw her unfaltering smile, her determination to remain active in life in spite of her illness and pain. Brother Gee was so understanding and helpful, ready to assist and help her do whatever she wanted to do. She might have said to him as she left:

"I must go first for just a little while

But Iíll watch the angel throngs

That pass to find your smile

For I shall wait for you

And keep love's light aflame

And when you come to me,

Iíll know and speak your name."

They came to Pocatello from Rexburg July 29, 1929 since coming here she has served in Sunday school, Y.W.M.I.A., Relief Society ward and stake, art and travel club, Pocatello literary club, Daughters Of Utah Pioneers-the Matilda Smith camp, and in the county where she compiled hundreds of histories. She had a keen memory, gave many book reviews, enjoyed reading, had a deep appreciation for good music and literature, and a sense of humor that we all loved.

Her sons are all here, she is survived by 12 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren, and five sisters: Mrs. Alta Lowe, Ogden, Utah; Mrs. Vera Remington, Portland, Oregon; Mrs. Rena Hammond, Fruitland, Idaho; Mrs. Elda Wood, Santa Barbara, California; and Mrs. Jesse Stephenson, Rexburg, Idaho. Brother Gee you have been so loving and devoted and she was ever grateful for you, her good husband. I know all your family are appreciative of this wonderful heritage. May you all be blessed, I pray. [And I leave you with this last thought - Author unknown]:

En voyage

There's a ship sailing on to a harbor

To a haven of comfort and rest;

It's a ship of God's fashion and making

And its voyage by him will be blest.

It departed with silence and beauty

With the master, himself, in command,

As with dignity truly majestic

It sailed on out of sight of all land.

There will always be clear sky above it

There will always be calmness below

There will never be storms to harass it

For the master in on it, you know

And his wisdom will carry it safely

To the fort of his infinite peace

Where the light of his love will protect it

With a blessing that never will cease

You have watched it sail onward and outward

With a tear of regret in your eye

For a loved one was sailing upon it

And there's grief when you're saying goodbye.

But your tears would be tears of rejoicing

And your heart would be happy and free

If you only could look for a moment

On that ship that is sailing, to sea.

For the one you have loved is at leisure

With no worry or trouble or care

Thereís contentment beyond understanding

In the way God's own passengers fare

And you'd know from you own observation

That the sailing was joyfulónot grim

For it means a new life and new living

And a sweet, closer contact with Him.

Oh, the solace there is in the knowledge

Life is life and it always will be

And it's simply a change in direction

When we sail on his ship out to sea

And the tears that we shed for our loved ones

Are in truth shed for us left behind

For it hurts to give up to the master

Tho' we know He is gentle and kind.

So believe in His great and good wisdom

Trust in Him as you patiently wait

On His ship God is ever the pilot

And the one you have loved is the mate."

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Prayer given at the funeral of Mary Ellen Kerr Gee,

April , 1986 by her eldest son William Marion Gee



These generations of a family from the first newly dead to the

yet unborn, come at a time of sorrow and joy, of parting and

reunion, to give thanks for the privilege of being sister and

husband, and son and daughter, and grandchild and great

grandchild, and nephew and niece, of thy choice daughter.


We ask thy help to recall, to sustain, to perpetuate the lessons

she taught, the example she set.


At a time of division and questioning and denigration in the

world, let us feel something of her love of family, her

certainty that ideals and restraints lead toward true fulfillment

and quiet joy.


Guide us in paths that lead us to those goals she would find

worthy. Protect our journey we ask in the name of Jesus Christ

Amen.