Mary Paetzel died at Royale Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center in Grants Pass, OR on August 3, 2007.
Margaret Mary Ann Paetzel was born to Mae and Charley on September 21, 1919, in Peru, Indiana. When Mary was one or two years old, the family left Indiana and headed west. Mary’s first memory was a train ride through snow-covered mountains near Dolores, Colorado; she was three or four years old. From 1924 through 1942, Mary and her mother spent a total of six or seven years living “off and on” in Dolores; the rest of the time the family lived in California. Mary completed the 8th grade in 1935, and looked forward to focusing on science courses in high school. However, school administrators insisted she concentrate on domestic science (cooking and sewing). She quit school.
By 1936 Mary and Mae came back to Dolores for an extended stay, and Mary worked on several farms upriver from Dolores. On days off, Mary climbed nearby rim rock and marveled at the profusion of wildflowers. She fondly remembered Mesa Verde and multitudes of sunflowers growing right up to the base of the cliffs
After the Pearl Harbor attack Mary attempted to enlist in the Army; because she had sight in only one eye, her request was rejected. That did not stop her. She took a Civil Service exam and in August 1942 was accepted for training to be an airplane mechanic. She specialized in the repair of generators and starters for B-17 and B-24 bombers.
In 1946 Mary, Mae, and friend Lillian Terrill pooled their funds, moved to Josephine County, and bought 20 acres of land in the Louse Creek drainage just north of Grants Pass. Within a few years, the three friends started a 3/4 acre iris nursery, and sold rootstocks.
From 1951 to 1981 Mary collected pollen for the Greer Pharmaceutical Company in North Carolina, for use with allergy tests conducted by doctors and hospitals. She collected pollen from more than thirty wild and cultivated plants during each year’s six-month flowering season.
Mary explored the Siskiyou Mountains and Siskiyou National Forest while she conducted her pollen-collecting enterprise. She started gathering information in earnest on some of the Siskiyou’s wild sites in 1972; she did sketches and plant surveys, and looked up the plants she didn’t know. She volunteered for the Forest Service, and occasionally worked as a contractor and temporary employee. Mary was also a self-taught butterfly expert. In 1986 she discovered the Mariposa copper (Lycaena mariposa) butterfly in the Mud Spring area. At that time only five populations of this rare butterfly were known from the mountain ranges of the Pacific Coast. Based on Mary’s information, an in-progress timber sale was modified to protect the butterfly population. In 1987 the Forest Service hired Mary as a temporary Botanist to help gather information to be used in development of a recovery plan for the area burned by the 96,000 acre Silver Fire. She also conducted a butterfly survey of the Dutchman Peak area for the Applegate Ranger District of the Rogue River National Forest.
Mary sold her Colonial Valley property in 1992, after her mother died. Mary always lived on a shoestring budget. But she earned enough to get by. Mary wanted to be in the field, and always noticed things to investigate, “and no one pays for that.” Once her property was sold, she was free to visit new places and follow long-dormant aspirations.
In 1992 Mary bought a small travel trailer and moved to the Merrill, Oregon area (southwest of Klamath Falls). In the summer of 1992 Mary worked as a volunteer for the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. In August 1992, while doing her botanical work, Mary raised an alarm about young white pelicans at Clear Lake in Northern California which were perishing for lack of water. The story even made the Oregonian and San Francisco Chronicle newspapers. She stirred things up and made people think about the conflicts between human and wildlife use of water in the Klamath basin.
Ever since coming to Oregon in 1947, Mary had be