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Mary F. Ennis

Updated: May 20

Mary Ennis passed away peacefully May 18 at Ramsey Village. We will celebrate Mary’s life at Grace United Methodist Church, 37th and Cottage Grove, with a visitation from 4-7pm on Thursday, May 26, and a funeral service at 10:30am followed by light refreshments on Friday, May 27. For those unable to attend, the funeral will be live-streamed at www.gracedesmoines.org.

Mary was born on February 5, 1938, in Marshalltown, IA, to Jack and Ada Wikle. After graduating from Marshalltown High School (Go Bobcats!) she married her high school sweetheart, Bob Ennis. They moved to Des Moines in 1960.


Mary and Bob were blessed with 3 children – Teri, Tammy, and Jay. While the kids were little, Mary kept busy with PTA, scout troops, gardening, crafts, and sewing all while running an in-home day care. Known for her boundless energy, she also hosted innumerable coffees for the neighborhood stay-at-home moms. Kids were treated to Kool-aid and graham crackers while the moms feasted on French Silk Pie and Danish Puff. The kids were satisfied with the explanation that the pies and puffs were “poison lady food” and, therefore, undesirable.


On summer evenings while Teri, Tammy, and Jay played outside with the multitudes of neighborhood kids (until the street lights came on), the grownups gathered in the Ennis’ front yard. Mary actually invented social networking as she loved to gather neighbors together for block parties, street-wide garage sales, and impromptu bring-a-lawnchair gabfests. All new neighbors were welcomed to 37th street with homemade cookies. Mary especially treasured her friendships with neighbors Jeanne Ver Steeg and Judy Leaming.


Mary and Bob joined Grace United Methodist Church and met a group of dear friends and enjoyed decades of camping, Sunday school, committees, fundraisers, canoe trips to the boundary waters, and more.


When Mary retired from her home daycare, she started a new career with the DM Public Schools. She loved being the librarian at Hubbell Elementary School and through programs like Reader Leaders, shared her passion for reading and books with enthusiastic students.


She had a natural curiosity to learn and then “hatch up an idea” to frugally recreate new discoveries herself at home. Beginning with John Gnagy Learn to Draw on public TV, she cultivated her natural artistic abilities and won ribbons and awards at the Iowa State Fair and On My Own Time art shows.

But of all her passions and pursuits, none could compare to her above average grandchildren. Every summer her Wisconsin grandsons came for a week of adventure, exploration, and popcorn in their jammies in front of the TV. Multitudes of cookies and pies were created with her granddaughters who lived in town and could visit “Nanny and Grampy” whenever they were in need of spoiling.


Mary was preceded in death by her husband, Bob, and later enjoyed the companionship of Larry TeKolste, a caring and special friend.


In recent years, despite an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Mary never lost her sense of humor and enthusiasm for life. She continued to delight in a fresh-from-the-garden tomato on an egg salad sandwich. Mary was able to live on 37th Street for 60 years. Thank you to neighbors Chuck Fuller and David Watson for their limitless care, concern, dedicated snow removal, and delicious baked goods.

We are grateful for the excellent care Mary received at Ramsey Village and from Unity Point Hospice.

Mary is survived by daughter Teri and her husband Dave Barthelmes, grandchildren Mike (Alex Coles) and Andy; daughter Tammy Ennis; son Jay Ennis, grandchildren Deidra, Shae, and Blythe; Jay’s significant other Courtney Work, and her children Ian and Olivia Graham.

Mary is further survived by her brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Lynne Wikle, and nephews Jack and David Wikle; and Bob’s brother and his wife, David and Gloria Ennis, and nieces Karen Creason and Sandi Ennis.


Memorials may be made to Grace United Methodist Church Free Clinic Meal or Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.