UCH Honors a Genuine Renaissance Woman

“I was just stunned. I know another woman who got it years ago who was a big contributor. But I’m not even close to that. I never thought of myself as a big contributor. I never did it to get an award,” Maryalice said.

Maryalice, 98, of Orrville, Ohio, was given the Ben M. Herbster Award, an award presented to individuals who best exemplify the philosophy, leadership, philanthropic spirit and achievements of the late Rev. Dr. Ben M. Herbster, who was the first president of the United Church of Christ. She was recognized for more than three decades of consistent annual giving.

She was presented with the award at the Chapel Hill Donor Appreciation Dinner in June in Canal Fulton, Ohio, by UCH President and CEO Rev. Kenneth Daniel. Her friend, John Kropf, who she has known more than 70 years, provided a tribute.

John praised Maryalice for her deep faith in God, her generosity and for taking steps to conserve energy and protect the environment.

“She is an incredible leader by her example. She’s not the president of organizations or even the chair of committees. The Bible says to lead by example. She is a person one should emulate because of the way she lives her life,” John said.

Maryalice is a retired schoolteacher who taught art for 25 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in art education and a master’s degree in art from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

She regularly attends Christ Church United Church of Christ in Orrville and gives to multiple charitable organizations, including United Church Homes, although she does not live in a UCH community.

Maryalice now lives at Orrvilla Retirement Community in Orrville. But for several years, Maryalice lived in a passive solar house, a design that uses the sun’s energy for heating and cooling.

She later moved into a straw bale house at 333 Wabash Ave. in Orrville. Maryalice designed the straw bale house herself after reading an article about the houses in Better Homes and Gardens. She said she misses living in both homes.

“I loved both. It came to a point when I couldn’t handle the solar. It was much too big for me to take care of,” Maryalice said.

She said her interest in being green and protecting the environment comes from her father, who objected to the use of pesticides.

“I grew up a little on the green side. My father tried to stay away from that stuff and with the environmental situation we’ve gotten ourselves in, I’ve gotten more concerned,” Maryalice said.

Maryalice is adept at using her computer tablet and email and has a Facebook account. She is a member of local, state and national teacher’s associations and the Smithville Garden Club. Maryalice is a 75-year member of Smithville Grange and once was a volunteer and secretary for Wayne County Habitat for Humanity.

Maryalice was a member of the board that established Habitat for Humanity in Wayne County. She said board members worked to get contributions to the organization, looked for properties where the organization could build homes and searched for families in need that the organization could sponsor.

“It was exciting and scary, too. We never knew when we were going to come out even,” Maryalice said. “In the beginning, it was word of mouth. They would encourage people to be thoughtful about it. It was just a grassroots thing. We just had our hearts and our mouths.”

In addition, Maryalice sponsors two children in Uganda.

She takes pride in helping others and said it’s nice to be recognized. But she never thought she would receive an award for giving to United Church Homes.

“I just considered that I’m doing what I should be doing. I didn’t do it for any honors like that,” Maryalice said.

Rev. Dr. Ben M. Herbster

RevHerbster2Rev. Dr. Ben M. Herbster was a pastor and the first president of United Church of Christ after it formed in 1961. After his retirement as president, he also served as a member and chairman of the Board of Directors of United Church Homes.