Mary Ellen Michalski
Member since February 13, 1995
Deceased on Mar 26, 2013
Beginning “about 1980” Mary Ellen Michalski was “nudged” by her friend Elaine Nugent to become a member of Court St. Anthony #330. She finally surrendered to Elaine’s persistence by joining our court in February of 1995. She now treasures that membership because of the “friendliness” of the women in our court. Mary Ellen says the Catholic Daughters “have been so good to me, helping me in the food line and all the time.” Mary Ellen is legally blind because of macular degeneration and has had cataracts removed. She uses a cane to help her get around. None of that has stopped her from remaining an active, productive and thoroughly joyous Catholic Daughter. Our interview was conducted in the car, journeying to Carroll, Iowa for the Iowa CDA’s annual Anna Baxter Day event. At age 82 she is filled with a humorous spirit and brings sunshine and happiness to everyone she meets.
Mary Ellen Guilfoyle was born on January 14, 1930 at St. Catherine’s in Omaha because her mother’s doctor attended there. She has been a resident of Council Bluffs her entire life, attending Holy Family Grade School and St. Francis High School. She and her future husband, Gib, dated all through High School. After her 1948 High School Graduation she studied business courses at the original College of St. Mary in the old Continental Hotel, at 15th & Castelar Streets in downtown Omaha. She worked at Mutual of Omaha for four years. Then she and Gib were married in 1953 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Council Bluffs. Her family’s worship at Holy Family goes back over one hundred years. Mary Ellen’s paternal grandparents were married there, as were her parents. Later on her daughter Michelle would also be joined in marriage in the same church. Today you can look out through the middle stained glass windows of Holy Family that were donated by Mary Ellen’s family.
Gib Michalski was in the United States Navy when they married, stationed at San Diego, California. It was the end of the Korean War and Gib would be shipping out from San Francisco to bring battle tanks, heavy rolling equipment and troops home on his LST (Tank Landing Ship) transport. He knew he wouldn’t be in port much, so he wanted Mary Ellen to stay at home with her parents in Council Bluffs. It was 1954 before they got an apartment in town. Today, Mary Ellen lives in the home she and Gib bought over fifty years ago. Their home is only one block from Holy Family Church and the former Grade School. This was convenient for the four children born of their marriage.
Mary Ellen and Gib took her mother into their home for four years when her children were young. She said the children “loved it.” They would be in there with Grandma “having a great time.” Grandma “gave them ice cream and spoiled ’em.” Mary Ellen says that is what Grandma’s are for and she believes it was wonderful for her children to have the experience of living with a grandparent.
When her children were nearly grown Mary Ellen spent twelve years as a Social Worker at Indian Hills Nursing Home. During that time she claims she could also have been a weather forecaster. She could always tell a change in the weather by “how ornery her patients and her children at home were!” She enjoyed her time at the nursing home very much, but eventually “too much paperwork” drove her out of the profession.
Mary Ellen’s only two siblings died very young. Her thirty-three year old brother Bill was a dentist, who died of a heart attack while out hunting on his birthday. He older brother Tom died while water skiing at age forty-five, also on his birthday. Mary Ellen and Gib lost a son at an early age. The Michalski’s son Bill died of cancer at the age of nineteen.
Mary Ellen is widowed and has a daughter Jean who is Director of Medical Records at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Carroll, Iowa. Her daughter and family live with lots of animals in a “big farmhouse in the country.” Daughter Michelle, who has children 14, 13, 11 and 9 years of age, lives outside Glenwood, Iowa and teaches Kindergarten in their town. Son Mark currently lives in the family home with Mary Ellen, which “has been a real blessing” for her. All in all Mary Ellen has ten grandchildren, seven boys and three girls. She also has two great-granddaughters, one in Council Bluffs and one in Iowa City.
In the past Mary Ellen “loved to read.” She also enjoyed embroidery and made quilts for all her grandchildren. She was happy to cook for the family. Her specialty was “baked chicken and mashed potatoes.” She “didn’t do much canning, but loved all the baking.” She “made pie almost every day.” Her husband’s favorite was “sour cream raisin” so she made a lot of those. Because she is legally blind, those are the activities she misses most today.
Loss and illness have been a large part of her life, yet Mary Ellen has always been devoted to her faith and an active Holy Family Parishioner. She was President of the Altar & Rosary Society there for five years. She was a RCIA sponsor there for many years which she “enjoyed a lot.” As a Catholic Daughter she has served as Vice Regent. She has attended the CDA State Convention twice and traveled to many workshops. She participated in countless CDA events over the years. As stated earlier, this interview was conducted during one of her trips for CDA.
We honor you Mary Ellen for your Christian example, your dedication to family, your warmth of friendship and your contagious smile.
You are my hope, Lord…from my mother’s womb you are my strength; my hope in you never waivers. Psalm 71:5-6