Grandma Mary honored for 21 years of volunteer work at Boeckman Creek

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Grandma Mary gives one of her trademark hugs to Michael Hasler and receives one in return.For 21 years, one person has been a constant at Boeckman Creek Primary School. No task in the school workroom is too big or too small for Mary Kienlen, and no volunteer has done the job for longer than she has.

But she doesn’t consider it a job.

“You know how they say if you have a job you love, it’s not a job?” she said. “This is not a job to me. This is a pleasure. I just enjoy people. I love to help out other people.”

Known to all at Boeckman as simply Grandma Mary, Kienlan was honored Feb. 21 in an event that the school now will celebrate annually, according to Zach Deets, Boeckman’s school counselor and instructional coordinator.

“Today we’re going to honor and show respect to her with our first annual Grandma Mary Day,” Deets told students during an assembly. “It just so happens that tomorrow is her birthday.”

At the assembly, students read an official Boeckman Creek proclamation, citing Grandma Mary’s “selfless service and dedication” to the school.

Other students recited a poem extolling her virtues.

“Roaming the workroom of Boeckman Creek is a volunteer you just must meet,” the poem began. “We love her to the moon and back again, and we know she’d do the same — but she’d do it times 10.”

The assembly concluded with the full assembly singing Kienlan the Bruno Mars song, “Count on Me.” While the students were in singing mode, they also gave Grandma Mary a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” complete with the “cha-cha-cha” chorus beloved to every grade-schooler in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District.

The honoree exercised unusual restraint while she was being honored. She is known for her easy tears: “Happy, sad, anything” can make her cry.

Yet afterward, it was different.

“The tears didn’t flow,” she said.

In addition to the tears and her cheerful work ethic, Kienlan is best known for her trademark Grandma Mary hugs. She has ample opportunity to bestow them and plenty of willing recipients. She volunteers at Boeckman Creek five days each week, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and receives a steady stream of visitors in the workroom as teachers and students drop off jobs and pick up completed projects.

Kienlan lives in Hubbard with John, her husband of 50 years. The couple have raised two children of their own and helped with her six grandchildren, one of whom, Rebecca Winz, is a senior at Wilsonville High School this year. Her youngest grandchild, Bobby, is now 16 and a student at North Marion High School in Aurora.

Kienlan’s volunteer job at Boeckman by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Grandma Mary spends five days a week in the Boeckman Creek Primary School workroom.evolved gradually as her grandchildren grew up.

“The first year, it was one day a week. Then it was two days a week,” she said. “By the time Bobby was in school, that is when I started the five days.”e

Her family supports her volunteerism, she said, even if they don’t always understand it.

“They think I’m crazy that I let these guys call me ‘Grandma,’” she said. “But they’re all my grandkids. Every one.”

The kids are the reason she stays.

“I look at them all as loving and caring. Give them a little love and they give you a bunch back. And a hug goes a long way,” she said.

Of course, hugs are not the only tool in Grandma Mary’s kit. She has some special tactics for kids who might be having a bad day, since teachers sometimes send students needing a change of scene to assist her in the workroom. She might ask them to help staple packets of paper, she said, or to sharpen pencils.

“One little guy, he loves to pick up paperclips,” she said. “Grandma Mary found this to make this job a little easier.”

Using the gadget — a magnet on a stick — gives the student a chance to calm down and to feel important.

“Do these little jobs and it gets them out of their bad moods,” Grandma Mary said.

Judging by the flow of well-wishers popping in to deliver birthday greetings and handmade gifts, the Boeckman community well appreciates her worth.

“Grandma Mary has touched innumerable lives, and not just here at our school,” Boeckman Creek secretary Sandi Laschober said. “She is a remarkable lady and we are very fortunate for all she does for us here.”

Is there anything Mary won’t do for the kids and their teachers?

“The only thing probably I don’t like doing is (cleaning up) after the kids have water-colored. I just hate the feel. I don’t have to do that very much,” she said.

Filling gallon bags with cut-out shapes is also on her least-favorite list, too. Although she stopped short of complaining about it, she did admit, “It doesn’t fill up fast.”

When it comes right down to it, there is only thing Grandma Mary would flat-out refuse to do.

“I just don’t want to retire,” she SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Mary Kienlen, known to all as 'Grandma Mary,' is showered with homemade tributes of thanks and affection at Boeckman Creek's first annual Grandma Mary Day.

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