Cover photo for Mary Edith Geis's Obituary
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1925 Mary 2022

Mary Edith Geis

January 31, 1925 — February 22, 2022

Mary Geis died on February 22, 2022, after 97 years and 3 weeks of life. She had maintained relatively good health until she got a covid infection she was unable to overcome. Covid made her really tired… She died at home with family and friends by her side.


Mary Edith Barraclough was born on January 31, 1925, to Esther (Lovett) Barraclough, and Kenneth Edgar Barraclough, in Beverly, MA. The family returned to their home in Durham, NH after Esther’s recovery.


Mary had two siblings, an older brother, Solon, and a younger sister, Caroline. Their father worked as the “State Forester,” and for the forestry extension service through The University of New Hampshire. Their mother, with a degree in German language and literature earned in 1916, found herself in a field that was suspect, and that offered few opportunities. She settled into her duties as a wife and mother as the times demanded.


Mary expressed an early interest in forests and nature in general. Her family lived on the border of the UNH college woods, a substantial, relatively wild forest, and near the tidal Oyster River. She was allowed to wander freely, by the age of seven or eight, and spent her time outside, exploring the world and returning home with questions about it. The family also spent time on the Maine coast and took trips into the White Mountains, and the Berkshires. It was on these trips that she was introduced to skiing which would become a lifelong passion. (Mary began skiing by the age of six and continued until she was ninety-one).


Mary graduated from Dover High School in 1943, spent the summer working on a dairy farm, and was off to Smith College in North Hampton, MA, (on an academic scholarship), that fall. She majored in Zoology and spent two summers as a Park Service naturalist on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and a third as a research assistant at Wood’s Hole on Cape Cod. She graduated in 1947 and spent the summer and fall travelling around Europe with a bicycling youth hostel group.


From the summer of ’48 through the summer of 1950 she was employed as a naturalist in Washington, DC and Yosemite National Park. She and her brother had made the trip “Out West” and had driven through Montana on the trip.


In the fall of 1950 Mary entered graduate school. She had been offered scholarships at Cornell and Montana State University, (now UM). She chose Missoula for the research opportunities offered at Wood’s Bay on Flathead Lake and the opportunity to come west. She studied the nesting and return habits of Canada geese based on data from various sites around Flathead Lake. At Wood’s Bay Research Station, she met her future husband Anthony Geis, who was also working on a Master’s Thesis. They married on August 9, 1954, in Missoula. They stayed in Missoula for two years then moved to Bozeman where Tony had accepted a new job with The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.


Mary worked as a science and math teacher in The Wilson Jr. High, from 1956 to 1963. She renewed her involvement with Girl Scouting during these years and she continued through three generations of Bozeman’s scouts. As part of scouting, and independently, she began her lifelong “exploration” of the mountains, rivers, and other wild country around southwestern Montana.


In 1964 Mary and Tony travelled to Chile where they adopted their children Lisa, (Elizabeth), and John. The children were, (and are), two months apart in age, so effectively the couple found themselves with twins.


In 1971 the family moved to their Kelly Canyon home where Mary and Tony would live out their lives. Kelly Canyon was fairly isolated at that time, (with only one other house in sight), so Mary was able to wander freely with the kids teaching them about nature while Tony commuted to town. Miles of cross-country skiing was accessible in the winter. Getting outdoors, and being active were always priorities for Mary and she tried to instill that in the kids.


In the second half of her life Mary continued her involvement with Girl Scouting, became an avid member of the BWAG Tuesday hiking/skiing group, began her personal research on and banding of Mountain Bluebirds, was active in the LWV, taught “nature classes” to various groups etc. She and Tony raised a big garden yearly, and kept chickens and various other poultry for eggs and meat. She canned, dried or froze a good part of the family’s food supply every year. Helping to raise her first grandson and travelling presented new opportunities for teaching and learning. Life was good


Mary was able to continue the activities she loved until her last years. She had to give up skiing at age 91 but (we) continued to take substantial walks until the snow fell last fall. Failing sight and hearing made it harder to observe birds but with the help of her birder friends she remained involved in that community.


Mom told me that she had had a long and fulfilling life and that she didn’t fear death. She loved this world, planet and its nature and now she is returning to it. She was preceded in death by her husband Tony, (2019), her parents, siblings, and all in-laws of her generation. She is survived by her children, Lisa (Gary) Vick and grandchildren Shelby and Shayla of Philomath, OR, grandson Monty Holliday and family of Clyde Park, and son John of Bozeman. We will miss you but it’s ok.


There will be a memorial sometime in June as I wanted to wait until the mud dried up. Condolences & memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.


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