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Mary Wassom
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Obituary for Mary Wassom

Mary B. Wassom of Bishop Drumm Care Center, Johnston, and formally of Des Moines, died Monday evening at the care center after 15.5 years of residency there.

A visitation will be held on Friday, September 1, 2017 from 12:00 – 1:00 PM at Bishop Drumm Care Center in Johnston, with a funeral service at 1:00 PM. Burial will be held at the Union Cemetery in Iowa Falls at 3:30 PM.

Mary Beryl Berry Wassom was born on March 19, 1930 to Cleon & Norma Berry in Iowa Falls at the farm of her grandparents Orval Silas & Lurana Jane Carpenter where OS Carpenter 1890s classmate George Washington Carver planted hybrid pear trees he crossbred at Iowa State College in Ames at the farm of Walter & Sarah Carpenter in 1893.  Mary was raised in Waterloo and graduated from Dunkerton High School in 1948 after moving to a farm there before her senior year.  

Mary attended Iowa State University Home Economics food & nutrition 1948-50 where she worked in the ISU bookstore & photo development lab for her uncle Elmer & aunt Berma Malmager in Ames.  She met Glenn Warren Wassom there on Valentine’s Day 1950 at a Sadie Hawkins dance in the ISU Memorial Union. They were married on Thanksgiving Day 11/24/50 in Iowa Falls and have thus been together over 67 years.  

Mary helped support Glenn through ISU ag economics and began their family in Ames with the birth of daughter Barbara Jo in 1952 and Debra Sue in 1956.  Mary was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in September 1956 and is one of the longest-living MS patients in US history—over 61 years, possibly since her teens.  After moving to a Churdan farm in 1959, Mary assisted Glenn by plowing fields and doing chores while raising their daughters on farms in Lake City, Laurens, Manning and Shell Rock, Iowa.  In July 1969, the family moved to Des Moines where Glenn worked for the Iowa Crop and Livestock statistical reporting service, and daughters graduated from Lincoln High School in 1971 & 1974. Mary was also an accomplished seamstress and weaver.  

After receiving her diagnosis of MS, Mary actively began handicap support groups in Ames, and other communities where she lived, and ultimately named the Des Moines MS group “The Mighty Special People” support club in which Glenn faithfully participated with her and transported her and others to meetings and events for MS plus the Adventurer Club for all types of handicapped adults.  She is one of the longest participants of the Des Moines Easter Seals Camp Sunnyside summer campers from 1970 to 1997 where she learned to weave beautiful rugs, runners and placemats plus other crafts which were sold at Camp Sunnyside outlets for her supplemental income.

She inspired all who knew her with her positive attitude and accomplishments in spite of her limitations.  She often said she knew she was handicapped, but “I don’t feel like a handicapped person” and lived her life accordingly through her strong faith and positive disposition.  

Glenn and Mary are members of Indianola Heights Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in south Des Moines where they lived from 1969 until 2002 when Mary moved to Bishop Drumm Care Center in March of 2002.  She is a 15.5-year resident of the Retirement Center in Johnston and Glenn resides next door at McAuley Terrace independent living the past 6 years.

Mary is survived by daughters, Barbara Jo Pedersen of Waukegan, IL and Debra Sue (Tim) Heldt of Johnston, IA; grandsons, James Christopher Heldt of Beaverdale and Daniel John Heldt of Johnston; brother/sisters-in-law, Scott (Nan) Wassom of Arkansas, Judy (Ray) Berry of Vermont, Jane (Clyde) Wassom of Kansas, Phyllis (Ray) Stefani of Cedar Rapids; Carpenter cousins, Martha Lou Hutton, Bee Malmanger, Linda (Howard) Pederson & Marilyn (Jerry) Lee; 3 Berry nephews and 2 nieces; 20 Wassom/Stefani nieces/nephews & families.  She is preceded in death by her parents; older stillborn sister; and younger brothers. Lloyd & Shirley Berry and Ray Berry.

Memorials in Loving Memory of Mary B. Wassom may be made to Bishop Drumm Care Center, Easter Seals Camp Sunnyside of Des Moines, St. James Lutheran Church of Johnston, or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Mary Wassom, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Bishop Drumm

5837 Winwood Drive
Johnston, Iowa 50131





1:00 PM
Bishop Drumm

5837 Winwood Drive
Johnston, Iowa 50131

Cemetery Details


Union Cemetery

1250 150th Ave.
Murray, Iowa 50174


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