During the summer months Mary Jo Dathe can be found giving tours at the Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum teaching visitors the history of the community. PAULA VAGTS/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
During the summer months Mary Jo Dathe can be found giving tours at the Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum teaching visitors the history of the community. PAULA VAGTS/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
At 81 years old, Spring Valley native Mary Jo Dathe is the essence of young at heart. A true icon of the small community, known for her bubbly personality, Dathe is constantly on the go between volunteering, writing and visiting.
Born and raised in the Spring Valley area, she has always been busy bustling from one thing to the next. In her early adult years she worked at the Osterud Agency, where she met her late husband, Gordon. She then went on to work 30 years at the Standard Oil Terminal.
During that time, she and Gordon raised two sons, Dave and Gene. However, she was not one to keep still, so she also stayed active in community.
“I do a lot of volunteer work. In the past I’ve served on the city council, which I believe everyone should do for at least one term,” Dathe stated. “I’ve served on the library board, numerous offices at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and I’ve been the Sunday school superintendent, all kinds of things. I’ve always been busy.”
Well-known for her passion for preserving the city’s history, she began her work with the Spring Valley Historical Society in 1970 as its secretary. She would later serve as the society’s director for 25 years.
She now gives tours through the Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum during the summer months.
Fueling her appetite for history is her deeply rooted connection to the city.
“I was born here, raised here. My parents were born and raised here and my grandparents on both sides were business people here in Spring Valley,” she conveyed.
Every week she brings her memories and vast knowledge to the readers of the Spring Valley Tribune through her column, “Glimpses of Yesteryear” in which she tells stories, reminds readers of the hardships and joys, all while teaching them the storied history of Spring Valley.
When asked why she believes in keeping history alive, Dathe said, “It is very important to preserve a town’s history. And I think simply because I get so many comments from people who enjoy my column.”
These days, beyond writing her weekly column, one will find Dathe walking to her Vision 21 meetings every Friday morning, working out at the downtown fitness center whenever she can, giving tours at the museum or delivering for Meals on Wheels.
She continues to serve on the visitation committee at Our Savior’s Lutheran, through which she visits and brings casseroles to those who are homebound.
During the lunch hour one will no doubt find her at the community center enjoying a meal where she teasingly says she goes to “hang out with the old people” for senior dining.
Busy as she may be, Dathe does make time for some of her beloved hobbies, which include photography, birding and scrapbooking for her children and grandchildren. Dathe even wrote her life story in a book, passing on her memories and anecdotes to her grandchildren.
For Dathe, her family, volunteering and taking a strong role in the community are what keep her young in spirit, mind and heart.