Funeral director Mary Ann Bauer stands next to a coffin display at her family's funeral home in Valley City. (Mary Jane Brewer, special to cleveland.com)
VALLEY CITY, Ohio -- Mary Ann Bauer earned Local Legend status back in 1988, when she became the first female licensed funeral director in Medina County. She joined her father in the family business -- the Bauer Funeral Home at 2089 Columbia Road in Valley City -- and is the director of the home to this day.
Her father, Clyde Bauer, was born and raised in the house that now serves as the funeral home. The house was built around 1870 and was home to its first funeral in 1943.
Mary Ann was born on the property in 1960, graduated from Buckeye High School in 1978 and earned an associate’s degree in business from Cuyahoga Community College in 1986. She served a two-year apprenticeship under her father and became licensed in 1988.
“Dad was quite proud of me -- it was a man’s world," she said.
Mary Ann had been playing the organ at funerals since she was a girl; she still plays for funerals, in addition to being the organist at Zion Lutheran Church for 41 years.
Her brother, Dan, and her sister-in-law, Madlyn, also live in the family house and raise beef cattle on the property. Mary Ann helps with the farming: “I love the land -- I help with anything.”
Dan and Madlyn return the favor by assisting with the operation of the funeral home. “We all team together," Mary Ann said.
Mary Ann works on all aspects of the funeral service: She meets with the family of the deceased, does book work, writes obituaries and death notices, files legal documents, and connects with churches and cemeteries.
She also gives hugs -- “they’re comforting.”
“We take pride in the service we can offer. I can help people through a difficult time in their lives," she said.
When she isn’t feeding cattle, trimming bushes or mowing the lawn of the funeral home, Mary Ann enjoys baking sweet rolls, cookies and bread. She serves on the board of the Northern Medina County Chamber Alliance and the Valley City Community Group, which sponsors the Street Fair and Frog Jump in August each year.
Mary Ann’s nephew, Charles, has completed his training and is now also licensed as a funeral home director. He plans to eventually take over the family business, but until then, Mary Ann continues to enjoy her work.
This is one in a series of stories on Medina County’s Local Legends.