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Mary Gruber Raffensperger ‘52

Mary Gruber Raffensperger, age 87, of Cedar Falls, IA, and formerly of West Des Moines, died Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, of complications of Alzheimer's disease at Martin Center-Western Home Communities, Cedar Falls.

She was born Mary Ellen Gruber on Jan. 21, 1930, in Marion, Ohio, daughter of Raymond and Iva Gruber. She graduated from Harding High School in Marion in 1948, and then enrolled at Antioch College in Ohio. She remained there two years and during that time met another student, Gene Raffensperger of Iowa City. The two transferred to the University of Iowa in 1950. Mary entered nurse's training and Gene journalism. The couple married in 1951.

Mary graduated from the University of Iowa as an RN in 1953 and returned to Marion to await the birth of the couple's first child. Gene had entered the Army in 1952, and in 1953 was assigned to Germany. In 1954, Mary and her 4-month-old son flew to Germany to join Gene. The family was not yet eligible for government housing so they first lived in an apartment where they shared a kitchen with a German family and had no refrigerator. Later they moved to a larger walkup apartment, still sharing the kitchen with a German family and still without a refrigerator. Mary worked around this by buying food staples daily at German markets and mixed powered milk daily for her infant.

The family returned to the United States in 1955 with the family settling in Des Moines where Gene worked as a reporter for the Des Moines Register. In 1961, the family, now with three children, moved to Davenport and stayed six years while Gene opened the Eastern Iowa Bureau of the Register there. Most of Mary's professional career was as a private duty nurse, and included one case that lasted 19 years with the same patient.

As a member of St. Mark Lutheran Church in West Des Moines, she started a Prayer Shawl Ministry in which she and other St. Mark members knitted shawls to be given to adults in need of prayer and comfort, and also smaller shawls for newly baptized babies. After retiring from private duty nursing, Mary worked 15 years as a volunteer at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. After that, she volunteered at Bon Marche, a clothing resale shop in West Des Moines, which operated on behalf of Lutheran charities.

Survivors include her husband of 66 years, Gene, of Cedar Falls; two daughters, Nancy (Doug) Newhoff of Cedar Falls, and Mary Lynn (Jeff) Kellen of Kuwait City, Kuwait; seven grandchildren, Lisa Raffensperger, Drew (Whitney) Newhoff, Katie (Andy) Akright, Erin (Bill) Emory, Nicky Newhoff, Will (Alessandra) Kellen and Charlie Kellen; and two great-grandchildren, Robbie Akright and Addison Newhoff. She was preceded in death by her parents; a son, Terry Raffensperger; and a sister, Helen Rawlins.

Funeral were January 3, 2018 at Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home in Urbandale. Burial was at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Adel. Memorials to the Iowa Nurses Foundation.