Mardy Oeming, good Samaritan

Mardy Oeming, good Samaritan

Sunday, January 9, 2000

SUE WHITE
THE SAGINAW NEWS

A recent visitor told Mardy Oeming, "I couldn't stand your lifestyle; your house is like a global bus station!"

The 74-year-old retired English teacher could only laugh. It's true, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Mardy is a yes person, a generous yes person," said Annie Ransford of Caro, who 20 years ago was the glad recipient of one of Oeming's Theodore Roethke tours.

"Mardy didn't know me (then) but still she gave half a day of her time," Ransford said. "Mardy delights in living and loves the variety of experiences and people she encounters.

"Mardy is always giving herself away; she's a good Samaritan who lives her faith and joy every day."

It is Oeming's giving spirit, witnessed by friends she's made around the world, that led The Saginaw News to select her as one of five 1999 Saginawians of the Year.

Ransford later came under Oeming's wing as a newcomer to the Saginaw Valley State

University faculty.

Oeming, who taught English and the humanities for 25 years at SVSU, recently dusted off the Roethke tour when a professor visiting from Turkey told her he's a fan of the late Saginaw poet.

Although slowed by failing health, she still finds opportunities to encourage world unity and other tenets of her Bahai faith.

"I came to Saginaw in 1946, after I married a Saginaw man," Oeming said. "We met while we were students at the University of Michigan, but even before I knew Joe, I had told my family in Chicago that I was going to school there so I could marry someone from Michigan and live there."

She became active in the local arts scene, and her Roethke tours evolved through the Friday Book Club's Evening with Roethke group and its Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award.

"Some of the best-known poets of the 1950s and 1960s were coming to Saginaw for the award, and in 1967, I was sent to the airport to pick up Stanley Kunitz," Oeming remembered.

"It was shortly after Roethke's death, and he told me, 'I want to visit Ted's grave.' That was the beginning of the tour."

While it bothered Oeming that Roethke's hometown didn't appreciate his talents, her own focus was on a global community. She and her husband, Joe, who died in 1988, visited 72 countries, taught at the school run by Oeming's sister in Tapachula, Mexico, and hosted a number of exchange students.

They also raised four children: Jay, a nurse living at home; Joe Jr., a sheriff's deputy in Saginaw County; Julie Oeming Badiee, an art professor at Western Maryland College; and Jeffrey, a high school teacher in Maryland.

These days Oeming is housing a SVSU student in her home, on Mershon near Weiss. When his computer studies tied up the phone line, she simply added a second one.

Oeming embraced the Bahai faith in 1970, drawn by its unity of religion and race, and then used it as a springboard to give fireside chats in her home, panel discussions at Saginaw churches and other events geared toward harmonious relationships.

She's keeping busy by helping to refurbish Roethke's former home at 1805 Gratiot, reading her poetry at the Red Eye coffeehouse on North Hamilton in Old Saginaw City and teaching creative writing to seniors through a program at Saint Mary's hospital.


©Copyright 2000, The Saginaw News
Original Story

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