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Archive for Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Leader leaves legacy in community

Mary Allen, 96, served on school board, in League of Women Voters

February 6, 2007

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Mary Allen, a longtime Lawrence resident who pressed for a city manager form of government for Lawrence and an equity pay system in local public schools, died at her home Monday. She was 96.

"She's been so instrumental in important changes in this community," said Mary Lou Wright, a friend of Allen's and co-owner of The Raven Bookstore.

An Iowa native, Allen moved to Lawrence in 1945. Her husband, the late Ethan Allen, was a professor and chairman of political science at Kansas University.

Mary Allen's interests were wide-ranging.

As a member of the Lawrence League of Women Voters in the late 1940s, she led an effort to institute a city manager form of government. She continued her work with the league, serving as president in 1952-54 and state legislative lobbyist in 1954-57.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, she was a member of the Lawrence school board. In that role, she pressed for the first organized pay scale system.

She taught freshman English at Kansas University from 1968 to 1969 and German at Lawrence High School from 1971 to 1976.

She started the Dickens Readers Society, a group that gathers weekly to read Charles Dickens novels.

And several years ago, Allen was a key player in a community effort to fix and reactivate Roosevelt Fountain in South Park, said Fred DeVictor, director of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department.

Her interests ranged from reading to opera and from botany to birds.

"She knew the Latin name of almost every plant or flower you could bring to her," longtime friend and neighbor Marjorie Cole said. "She knew birds backwards and forwards."

Cole recalled how Allen's house was always "neat as a pin" with fresh flowers continuously on display.

Allen's daughter, Martha Allen, said her mother traveled extensively, visiting Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

"She was full of curiosity," Martha Allen said. "She taught me that the world was a fascinating place and all you had to do was walk out the door and go see it."

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