Long-time Boulder resident, Mary Lou Clarey Schlapia, passed away at her home on October 17, 2020. She was 92 years old.
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A Boulder resident for the past 63 years, Mary Lou was born in Clearfield, Iowa to Cecil H. Clarey and Ida Lena (Ethington) Clarey Wood, on November 19, 1927. She grew up in Iowa, where she met the love of her life, Charles Russell “Russ” Schlapia, whom she married in Clearfield on February 9, 1947. Mary Lou, Russ, and their first two daughters—LouAnn and Lyn—moved to Boulder in 1957. Shortly after arriving in Boulder, their third daughter, Lora, was born.
As a child, Mary Lou helped out at her parents’ business, the Farmers Produce, which served as a means for local farmers to get their crops to market. In school, Mary Lou chose to take business-oriented courses in preparation for a career as a secretary. She always recalled the silver pin she won in a typing contest. After graduating as the salutatorian from high school in Clearfield, she received a scholarship to attend business college in Omaha, and then worked for a while at the headquarters of Western Auto in Kansas City while Russ attended electronics school. She and Russ moved back to Iowa, where their first two daughters were born. After moving to Boulder, Mary Lou helped Russ start a custom woodworking business called The Wood Shop, which became a fixture in west downtown Boulder for 18 years. Her education and business experience served her as The Wood Shop’s bookkeeper. In 1974, Mary Lou started working for the Boulder County Clerk’s Elections Division, where she worked until she retired in 1995. As an election official, she recruited and trained election judges, wrote election manuals, designed ballots, and even co-wrote and starred in an award-winning training video for election officials.
As a young girl, Mary Lou watched her parents play softball (called “Kitten ball” at the time) and her dad play amateur baseball, and she soon became an avid sports fan. Mary Lou played girls’ basketball for Clearfield High School, a team that twice made it to the state tournament. She competed on the high school track team, earning awards for the high jump and relay races. Mary Lou continued to participate in sports in Colorado. She was a catcher for the Boulder County co-ed softball team until her playing days ended when she broke two fingers trying to put out a baserunner at home. She was also an active member of a local women’s bowling league, bowling on a team that earned several state tournament berths. She continued bowling as a member of a senior league well into her eighties. Mary Lou was also a devoted fan of the Rockies, Broncos, and the CU sports teams. She attended many Rockies games at Coors Field, and, for many years, went to Arizona to watch the Rockies during Spring Training.
Music was also important to Mary Lou. In high school, she played tenor sax in the marching band and sang alto in the glee club and chorus. She was a long-time member of the board of directors for the Boulder Friends of Jazz. In the summer of 1964, she earned the everlasting gratitude of her three pre-teen daughters when she took them to see the Beatles perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison.
After moving to Boulder, Mary Lou served as a Girl Scout troop leader and a Sunday school teacher for the First United Methodist Church. She remained active in the church’s Methodist Women’s Circle for the rest of her life. She also belonged to the Boulder Garden Club, and once came in second for her Peace Rose at the Boulder County Fair. After the death of her beloved Russ, Mary Lou joined the local chapter of the Widowed Men and Women of America, an organization where she made many dear friends.
A frequent world traveler, Mary Lou took over 25 cruises, visiting places as far-flung as Europe, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Alaska, Russia, and even Africa. But mostly Mary Lou, or as her great-grandchildren called her, G.G., enjoyed spending time with her family. Her Boulder home hosted regular birthday parties for all the family throughout the year, as well as annual Christmas and Easter parties. She loved attending her children’s, grandchildren’s, and great-grandchildren’s school events and other activities, including concerts, plays, marching band parades, and sporting events. Recently, Mary Lou finished writing her memoir, a chronicle of her life in Iowa and her early days in Colorado called, The Way It Was.
Mary Lou loved people. She could strike up a conversation with anyone, and she enjoyed meeting new people throughout her entire life. She made many friends over the years and loved to catch up and share stories. She always had a smile, and she was ready to listen and give encouragement to friends and family alike. She had a way about her that made everyone around her enjoy being with her.
In addition to her parents and her parents-in-law, Floyd D. and Ocie (Miller) Schlapia, she is preceded in death by her husband, Charles Russell Schlapia, and her sister Dorothy (Clarey) Routh.
Mary Lou is survived by her three daughters: LouAnn S. Babicz and her husband, Marty, of Longmont, Lyn Heimbecher of Boulder, and Lora Norelius of Longmont. She is also survived by her eight grandchildren—Dawn Hertzig and her husband, Paul, of Wake Forest, NC, Benjamin Reed and his wife, Lupita, of Los Angeles, BreeAnna Reed of Lafayette, Brittany Reed of Lafayette, Stefan Heimbecher of Boulder, Lyssa Gad of Denver, Jarod Norelius and his wife, Yazyth, of Denver, and Brendon Norelius and his wife, Carmella, of Milliken. Mary Lou was very proud of her great-grandchildren—Isaiah Hertzig and Cheyenne, Isabella Hertzig, Ilaina Hertzig, Osmara Figueroa and Ysenia , Brenda Figueroa, Alex Gonzalez, Julian Melvin, Hazel Brawley, Cataleya Norelius, Conor Norelius, Angelina Gomez, Abram Gomez, Sariyah Gomez, Aleksis Norelius, and Annaleysia Norelius. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews, all of whom she loved dearly.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Arbor Day Foundation Trees in Memory program at: https://shop.arborday.org/trees-in-memory
Due to the pandemic, a celebration of her life will be held in 2021.