Mary Ellen Groen, 97, of John Day passed away Saturday, February 23rd, 2019 at Valley View Assisted Living in John Day. A funeral service is scheduled for 9:30 AM on Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at Driskill Memorial Chapel. Vault interment will follow at 1:00 PM at Mount Hope Cemetery in Baker City.
Mary Ellen was born on January 3, 1922 in Baker City, Oregon to Warren B. and Vera (Storie) Powell. She had two older sisters and they lived on a ranch near Rye Valley in Baker County, Oregon. Her first year of school was at Dixie, Oregon. The family was in Ludwig, Nevada at the beginning of the second year of school and she attended school there until Thanksgiving of that year, when they returned to Oregon. The remainder of her grade school years were at Rye Valley until the last six weeks of the eighth grade. The family moved to Vale, Oregon where she finished the eighth grade, four years of high school and a post graduate course. Upon completion of the post graduate school, and in the fall of 1940, she started to work for the law firm of Lytle & Swan in Vale, Oregon as a legal secretary for the sum of $25.00 per month. In 1942 she had an opportunity for a better job with John Caldwell at the Malheur Abstract Co. (later Land Title Insurance Co.) for $60.00 per month, a career that lasted for 40 years.
She was a member of the Vale Womens Club and served as their Secretary/Treasurer for several years. She served as Chairman of the 1945 Christmas Seals for the Vale area and Chairman of Oregon Chest Drive for Malheur County in 1949. Also, she performed as a dancer in five Home Talent Shows presented by the Vale Womens Club.
In the fall of 1949, L. A. (Vern) Groen was hired as a draftsman for the title company and he convinced Mary Ellen that he was the one for her. They were married on August 4th, 1951. They both continued to work for the title company. Vern had a son by a former marriage and Mary Ellen formally adopted him in 1956. In 1952 they moved to Baker, Oregon to manage the Baker Title Company for the McCallum family. They were there until the fall of 1957 when they again joined John Caldwell to build a new title plant for Grant County, a project that took six months. When it was completed they moved to John Day to manage the new business. Mary Ellen didn't work full time when they first opened the new business and, in the fall of 1958, Grace Williams, Grant County's District Attorney, asked her to work for her, a job that lasted about four years. By that time the Land Title Company of Grant County had purchased the Grant County Abstract Co. and Vern needed her help in the business. Vern died in 1987 and Mary Ellen continued to operate the business for six years. A couple of years after Vern's death, the Agent's Section of the Oregon Land Title Assn. appointed her as Sec.-Treas. for a one-year term. She was also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Can-Day Garden club, serving as the Treasurer for the Auxiliary and Secretary for the Legion Hall Board, and Secretary for the Can-Day Garden Club, as well as working in her business. She sold the title company to Bend Title Co. in August of 1984.
She loved to travel and, after she sold the business, thought she would have time to enjoy traveling. However, Roy Kilpatrick, an attorney in Mt. Vernon, Oregon asked her to work for him. She accepted his offer and started another legal secretary job in November 1985, thinking she would probably work for one or two more years - it turned out to be a total of 12 years. Her son was planning a three-month trip to Alaska in his motor home and said he would like to have her join him. Roy had died in December of 1992, and his son, Mike, had the law office and she continued to work for him. When she told him of her plans, he said "Mary Ellen, are you sure you want to do that". She said "yes". It was a wonderful trip. She also traveled to Europe four times, to Hawaii three times, Mexico once, and visited almost all of the United States. She went on three cruises - one to Hawaii, one to Mexico and one on the Inland Passage to Alaska. Also, a river boat trip on the 'Delta Queen' up the Mississippi River.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Vern Groen; her parents, Warren and Vera Powell; two sisters, Eleanor VanWinkle and Dorothy Cameron; and daughter-in-law, Sue Kay Groen.
She is survived by her son, Gary Groen of Lakeside, Oregon; nieces, Janis (John) Hart of Indianola, Iowa; Virginia (Monty) Thompson of LaGrande, Oregon; Lea Ann Shipman of LaGrande, Oregon; Jerri (Bob) Bronson of Prineville, Oregon and Leslie (Carl) Naake of Loomis, California.
Memorial contributions may be made to the John Day Elks Lodge #1824 through Driskill Memorial Chapel, 241 S. Canyon Blvd., John Day, Oregon 97845.