Mary Ellenbecker Johnson
Mary Ellenbecker Johnson, 63, passed away peacefully at her Pearl Lake home on Monday, July 3, with her family at her side.
Mary was born in Duluth, Minnesota on August 17, 1953 to Jack and Kate (Hollern) Ellenbecker.
Mary graduated from Cathedral High School in St, Cloud, Minnesota in 1971. Mary attended several universities around the country before graduating from St, Cloud State University (magna cum laude) in 1983 with a degree in Biology. Those who knew Mary, knew that she was an adventurer, an explorer, activist, and world traveler. During those years before graduating from SCSU, Mary traveled to Belgium, Germany, Italy, Greece, Israel, and Taiwan. Along the way she became friends with many. She especially cherished her time working on a kibbutz in Israel and in Taiwan where she taught English. In Taiwan she met some of her most beloved friends who have remained in contact over the past 40 years.
Mary began her teaching career in Klawock, Alaska in 1983. Mary taught Life Science, Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Special Education. Mary returned to St. Cloud where she became a co- owner of Bravo Burritos for 3 years before returning to education. Mary taught science for 1 year at Area Learning Center and then began teaching at St. John’s Preparatory for nearly 20 years. At Prep, Mary taught Biology and also did costuming for many Prep plays and musicals. Mary taught for the last 2 years at St. Cloud Technical College as a Biology and Environmental Science instructor. Mary made her classes exciting, rigorous with a practical sense that peaked student curiosity and creativity. One of Mary’s favorite projects was when she had her students convert a diesel engine school bus to an engine that ran on used deep fry oil. It worked!
Perhaps Mary’s most treasured times was when she was in her garden. She loved to garden and her gardens were always quite productive, One season she canned 125 quart jars of tomatoes.
Mary was outspoken but humble about her accomplishments. While at St. John’s Prep, Mary guided her Envirothon (science) team to 3 state titles. She was a proud founding board member of the Minnesota Street Market in St, Joseph. She encouraged all to support local economies by supporting local farmers and artists. In 2008, Mary received an award for “Leadership in Educational Excellence” by Resource Training and Solutions.
Mary is survived by her husband of 36 years Charlie, son Ben and his partner Sandi. Brothers, Mike (Marlene) Ellenbecker, Bill (Helen) Ellenbecker, Steve (Jolene) Ellenbecker, John (Kathy) Ellenbecker, Tom (Rhonda) Ellenbecker, and Bob (Colette) Ellenbecker.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents Jack and Kate Ellenbecker and by her aunt Sybil Hollern.
A memorial service followed by a Toast to Mary’s life will be held on August 3rd at 5pm in the Weber Center on the campus of Saint John’s Preparatory School. A special thanks to the CentraCare Hospice nurses for their care and comfort.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the food shelf in Saint Joseph. Send donations to Saint Joseph Parish, 12 West MN Street, St Joseph, MN 56374, ATTN: Food Shelf.