Janesville41°

‘Being a volunteer is infectious’

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GINA R. HEINE
January 20, 2008
— Mary Libby jokes about how she tried to keep her 2006 retirement from General Motors quiet for a while.

But word got out that she had more free time.


Now she’s the president of Primetimers, the Evansville-area senior group, and vice president of the Friends of the Evansville Community/Senior Center, the nonprofit group building a new center, and the chairwoman of the program committee to get activities scheduled.


“I like to do something that enhances the landscape of Evansville,” she said. “I think Evansville is growing, and we need some nice things here so we’re in step with some other communities.”


Her latest burst of volunteer work is nothing new.


“Being a volunteer is infectious,” she said. “It gets in your blood.”


In the 1970s, Libby served as secretary and president on the Stoughton Hospital Foundation board of directors. There she helped to start a substance-abuse program with Cazenovia-native Ryne Duren, an All-Star pitcher who won the World Series with the New York Yankees in 1958 and is a recovered alcoholic.


“Without support from people like Mary, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did there,” he said.


Later, the YWCA of Rock County became her focus. Libby served on the finance committee of the Care House, the first facility of its kind in the state for abused children. She also was a YWCA board member and led it as president for two years.


Janis Ringhand, executive director of the Friends of the Evansville Community/Senior Center, said Libby’s truly a leader who likes to see projects accomplished.


“Mary has a real get-things-done attitude,” she said. “She’s not the one to sit on the back burner and wait for someone to do something. She rolls up her sleeves and gets right into it.”


After 45 years of work—her last 27 of them at GM—Libby said she’s ready to sit back, have fun, enjoy friends and cook, her favorite hobby.


Tears well in her eyes when she talks about her retirement and latest volunteer work in Evansville.


“I’ve been gone from Evansville, you know, leaving town with my headlights on and coming home with them on,” she said. “But it’s time to do something for my hometown.”


Then she jokes about how she cries even when babies get baptized.


“My basic philosophy is, ‘Where would the world be without the volunteers?’” she said.


Given Libby’s experience on boards and work at Baker Manufacturing, Hufcor and GM, she’s bringing organization and contacts to her service at the Primetimers and community/senior center building, Ringhand said.


At GM, Libby started in personnel and worked in other areas including public relations, labor relations, health insurance, workmen’s compensation and technical analysis before retiring as the shipping coordinator and awards coordinator.


“It’s just really wonderful to have someone with her background and experience to join us,” Ringhand said.


And it’s Libby’s positive driving force that gets things done, Duren said.


Duren signed his 1978 book, “The Comeback” to Libby with this:


“With enthusiasm like yours, things have to go well. You have touched so many lives.”


Mary Libby
Age: 62
Community: Evansville
Occupation: Retired from 27 years in management at General Motors assembly plant in Janesville
Family: Husband, Kent, married for 40 years; and their dog, Peter, a Doberman
Travel bug? Yes. Mary has visited 37 countries, with Italy being her favorite. Kent just met his goal of visiting all seven continents. The Libby home is filled with items from around the world—at least one special item commemorates each country they’ve visited. On the table next to her, for example, sits a miniature replica of Michelangelo’s “David” statute, and items from Egypt, China, Germany and Canada surround the fireplace while her collection of oriental rugs line the house.
Favorite hobbies: Cooking and entertaining friends. Recently she’s trying to shake the rust off her piano playing skills she learned when she was a girl. Mary also swims about four miles a week.
Favorite music: All kinds, except hard rock
Favorite movie: “Pretty Woman”
Three words that best describe you: Ambitious, organized and caring

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