Born in Terre Haute, Indiana May 7, 1943. Mary Beth Van Gilder began her journey through life. Mary was the youngest daughter of Fred and Ethel Van Gilder. Her early years were spent with her mom who was a traveling school teacher, living in a variety of hotels and boarding houses. Little did she know that this nomadic life was a foreshadowing of her lifestyle in later years. Although she loved being with her mom and traveling around, in order to maintain some stability for her teen years, she moved in with her Grandmother Harrite and Grandfather Oscar. She loved her grandparents very much, they became like her second parents.
Mary was very outgoing in high school. She showed off her spunky personality as a majorette in the marching band as well as a Jr. Attendant for the football queen during homecoming. She met the love of her life Charles Huffman when she was only 15 yrs. old. Chuck often joked that he fell instantly in love with Mary but had to wait for her to grow up so he could date her. He didn't wait long and they were married in 1960 when Mary was 17 yrs. old. Mary showed us in her marriage to Chuck what a true helpmate was. Her love and support of Chuck was genuine and steadfast. She knew when to come alongside him, and when to step in to keep him in line. Chuck took excellent care of Mary in their 52 years of marriage, loved and adored her to all the ends of the earth.
The earlier years of traveling with her mother helped prepare Mary for life as a military wife for 20 years and a Pastors wife of 24 years. Mary became a first time mother in 1961 with the birth of her first born, Beth, shortly followed by Carol’s arrival in 1962 and then Donna in 1964, her last bundle of Joy. Mary loved life and was always up for an adventure. She loved people, and had a gift of knowing when someone needed a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or just a big hug. Mary was lovingly nick named "the card lady". A big part of her ministry was sending cards. She touched the hearts of many with an uncanny ability to be able to choose just the right card, in perfect timing that brought words of blessing and encouragement to the recipient.
Mary loved spending time with her eight grandchildren and she was more than excited this past year with the arrival of her first great-grand daughter. She prayed daily for them and loved them with all her heart. She left a lasting impression on each one of them.
The last few years of her life showed Marys’ strength and determination more than at any other time of her life. As she battled cancer she amazed us with her continued love of people, stopping often to ask others in the hospital if they were okay and if she could pray with them. Even though she herself was battling she took time to make sure those around her were cared for, including the doctors. She let Jesus love shine through her to those she came in contact with.
Now looking back on Mary’s life journey, we can confidently say she has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Now we know she has received the crown of righteousness that the Lord will award to her on that day.