Mary Elizabeth Wilmes, known as Mary Beth to her many co-workers and as Buffy to her family, was born on Oct. 7, 1957, at St. John McNamara Hospital in Rapid City, SD. She was the youngest of three children of Eugene Cline and Mary (Shiel) Cline. Her father grew up in rural Wyoming and her mother in Glasgow, Scotland, with very different backgrounds, but they both had a strong work ethic and a dry sense of humor. Mary absorbed their values and was known for her persistence everywhere she worked. All her life she made people laugh out loud, and she was a master of the one-liner. She saw the good in everyone and would do anything to help them. People confided their deepest secrets to her because of her warm, accepting and non-judgmental personality.

Mary attended General Beadle Elementary School and North Junior High School and graduated from Rapid City Central High School in 1975. She studied at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology before earning a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of South Dakota. She later earned a master’s degree in education and a special education certificate from Adams State University in Colorado. She was very modest about her educational background and most people had no idea of the range of her studies.

Mary’s early jobs included waitressing at a doughnut shop, a diner, and a pizza joint. Later jobs included social worker for developmentally disabled children, assembly line worker, reader for the blind, software support specialist, and kitchen manager, but she found her greatest fulfillment as an elementary school special education teacher who was able to teach children to read whom everyone else had given up on. She volunteered in many roles over the years as well. Mary made deep friendships everywhere she worked because of her warmth and humor.

While working at a developmental disabilities center in Colorado, Mary met the love of her life, John Wilmes, whom she married in 1984. They lived in over a dozen places in Colorado as they moved for work and education. Mary joined the Catholic Church in 1994, receiving the sacraments and remarrying in the church on Easter Vigil 1994. Her deep faith was a great comfort to her for the rest of her life.

In 1999, their only child, Matt, came to Mary and John. Later that year they moved to the rural oceanside San Francisco Bay area where they lived for 20 years. While there she had her first bout with breast cancer, during which she bravely worked even through chemotherapy.

After Mary retired, she and John moved to Rapid City in 2019 to a neighborhood Mary had always loved a few blocks from her birthplace. Mary made many new friends there and worked part time as a personal shopper. As in Colorado, Mary loved to roam the back roads and highways with complete spontaneity, enjoying every day as it came.

In August 2020, Mary’s cancer metastasized to her brain, but after treatment she was surprised with an extra year of life, which she lived to the fullest that her illness allowed. She died peacefully at home on Nov. 30, 2021.

She is survived by her husband, John; her sister, Jean Cline; her brother, John (Kathy) Cline; and her son, Matt Wilmes.

Donations in Mary’s memory may be made to Storybook Island in Rapid City, or to a charity of your choice.

Public visitation was held from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church with a Recital of the Rosary and Vigil Service at 6 p.m. Christian Funeral Mass was held at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 6, at the church. Burial followed at 2 p.m. at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Rapid City.

Arrangements are with Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home, 2700 Jackson Boulevard, Rapid City, SD 57702.

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