Mary Alice Hendrix was born at Fort Sanders Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee on September 9,1940; the fourth child of Andrew and Jane Hendrix. Her older siblings are Don, Larry, and Lois, and her younger brothers are twins Ralph and Roger. Her father was an Agricultural and Electrical Engineer and had taught at the University of Tennessee; he then worked in Raleigh NC, Auburn AL, and Blacksburg VA before moving the family back to the house he had built on Maloney Road in south Knoxville. He worked in Knoxville for the Tennessee Valley Authority and farmed at the Maloney Road property. Her mother was from Columbus Ohio, and her parents met while working at the University of Tennessee, where her mother worked in the cafeteria as a dietician. They lived most of their married life at the Maloney Road house.
Mary Alice went to Mount Olive Elementary School, which was about a mile from home and she walked to school along Maloney Road. There was no kindergarten; she attended grades 1-8 there, then went to Young High School. She took piano lessons from her Aunt Mabel and from Mrs. F. Woods Beckmann and played clarinet in the school band and orchestra. Chores included cleaning house, planting and picking vegetables and strawberries, gathering eggs, and pestering the roosters and geese. Her childhood was filled with playing in the barn and in the woods and with a dog (named Sally).
After her junior year, her father carried out USDA research on the campus of the University of Georgia, and she moved with her parents and younger brothers to Athens, Georgia and attended Athens High School. She graduated in 1958 and then attended the University of Georgia where she started taking French, loved it, and majored in French and Secondary Education. She worked at the campus library.
After attending the French School at Middlebury College in Vermont for 2 summers, she received a Rotary Fellowship to spend a year studying in Paris and achieved an MA in French from Middlebury in 1964. The following year, she went to Germany and studied German while working: first as a nanny in Munich, then as a secretary at Pausa, and finally at a fabric printing industry in Mössingen south of Stuttgart. In 1965, she came back home, bought a white Corvair, drove to Illinois, and began teaching French at Glenbrook North High School.
That fall, she met Eugene Jonas Beckman, originally from Brookings South Dakota, who was working on his Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern in Evanston, after he had completed his engineering undergraduate degree at Northwestern. They were married in Park Ridge, Illinois on June 22, 1968 and moved to Moline, where Gene had begun working as a test engineer for Deere and Company. Their first son, David, was born in 1969; then Matthew in 1971 and Sarah in 1975. In 1977 the family of five moved to the home on the bluff near the Mississippi River.
Besides being wife and mom, she taught French part time in high school, middle school, and at St. Ambrose College. She worked in school and public libraries, and at Black Hawk College Library; and was a volunteer in the public schools and church. Singing Handel’s Messiah with the Augustana choir was an annual tradition for several years.
She attended Mt. Olive Baptist church as a child, and later Church Street Methodist Church in Knoxville. She was intrigued by a Children’s Story Book Bible and read it cover to cover. When she became engaged, she completed confirmation classes and joined the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. She and Gene have attended Holy Cross Lutheran Church since 1968, where both have taught Sunday School, sung with the choir, and worked on various committees and projects over the years. She wrote Vacation Bible School lessons and joyfully directed Handbell Choir for years. The pastors and members of the congregations have truly been like family to Gene and Mary Alice. She has been a lifelong learner of the Bible, continually amazed by fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy of Jesus’ life fulfilled hundreds of years later. She loved the learning in Bible Study Fellowship classes.
She counts her greatest earthly blessings as her husband and 3 children and 11 grandchildren. Gene and Mary Alice both retired in 2008; Gene after 46 years with Deere. Fondest memories of raising children include tent camping for summer vacation, visiting national parks in most of the 50 states and Schlomerville family reunions. They love visiting their children and grandchildren and relatives across the country (driving many miles!), bicycling along the Mississippi River, gardening, and reading and travel. Also, they have been grateful for wonderful neighbors and have enjoyed time visiting and sharing life together. Special time with the grandkids includes reading, doing crafts and cooking, and attending their sporting and school events—from Chicagoland to California. Mary Alice made special memory quilts for her children.
Some highlights in recent years have been travel with Gene, including Luther land tour in Germany and an Alaskan cruise and seeing the 2017 solar eclipse with her son Dave and his family. She fondly remembers taking her mother on a trip through France and Switzerland when her mother was 83 years old. The children and grandchildren gathered in Lake Tahoe to celebrate Gene and Mary Alice’s 50th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2018. Gene and Mary Alice enjoyed spending time with her twin brothers and spouses on a cruise to the Bahamas. God provided her a window of opportunity to take a trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land in Israel in February 2019 and her highlight was the Sea of Galilee. This visit brought the Bible to life — in technicolor!
Mary Alice’s last words were those of love to visitors and thanksgiving to God for her faith and protection and for her earthly blessings. Praise the Lord that she has assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ her Lord and Savior!
John 14:1-2,6 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?...Jesus said…”I am the way, and the truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
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