Getting in touch with founder of GED program at college campus

The return of free non-credit basic education courses to our Merced College campus next fall brings to mind an educational pioneer and writer who taught basic education and GED courses when the Los Banos campus opened 48 years ago.

Mary Ann Edminster taught several basic English courses for many years at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College, beginning in 1971. Her major accomplishment was developing a General Educational Development program which helped scores of people build a foundation for further education, good jobs and successful careers.

Mary Ann long ago retired from teaching and has moved to southern California, but her legacy remains. And she is especially remembered whenever adult basic education in Los Banos is discussed.

Mary Ann is also a gifted writer, having been an active member of a group that gathered to write their life stories. Not long ago, many of Mary Ann’s stories were published in a book entitled, “Trail Tales,” relating to her days growing up in Trail, Oregon.

Her writing is warm, personal and often funny. Some of my favorite titles in Trail tales include “Yoyo Day,” “Flea Circus,” “Doodlebugs” and “Pear Picking.”

Also an avid reader, Mary Ann is active in several book clubs.

Since she moved to La Mirada six years ago, Mary Ann has continued writing, contributing articles regularly to the newsletter published by the seniors’ facility in which she lives. In these articles she features other residents and their pets, which is typical of Mary Ann – who thinks of others more than herself.

Mary Ann’s warmth also comes across in person. She is an easy person to listen to and talk with as her many friends and students will attest.

Over the years she also served as the heart of her family, a devoted wife and companion to husband Bob, who died eight years ago, and her children Suzanne Edminster (now in Santa Rosa), Karen McReynolds (Fullerton) and Joel Edminster (Fairfield, Conn.), all of whom pursued, like Mary Ann and Bob, teaching as careers. She has thoroughly enjoyed being a grandmother and recently became a great-grandmother.

I’ve known Mary Ann the past half-century as a colleague and friend, ever since her family and mine moved to Los Banos when the Los Banos Campus of Merced College opened in a small, rented facility at 821 L Street.

She was in many ways the heart of the Los Banos Campus. She organized class potlucks before Christmas, which many faculty, staff and students enjoyed, and she hosted many parties in her home throughout the year.

While Bob was hired as a full-time instructor in geography, botany and physical education, Mary Ann was hired as an adjunct instructor in English. She and Bob met many years before at San Jose State University.

Over the years she accompanied Bob on the many journeys he took while exploring California’s geography and botany and on class field trips and family excursions. She developed a love for wildflowers and trees as deep as Bob’s.

Mary Ann and Bob traveled together to all over California and far beyond, including the Kenya, Belize, Norway, New Zealand and Nova Scotia (to see the world’s highest tides). She became an expert traveler and for awhile worked as a travel agent. She would give free travel workshops at the college, including a demonstration on how to pack efficiently for long trips.

Mary Ann celebrated her 90th birthday this month. She’s as sharp as ever, and she can engage friends and family on a wide spectrum of topics – from books to birds to botany.

Lately, Mary Ann has had some medical challenges.

But it has not diminished her love of receiving handwritten notes. I’m sure she would appreciate hearing from the many friends she has in Los Banos – via the U.S. mail.Many of her friends have received letters, written in her loving cursive, just as she taught elementary school children to write in Merced before she and Bob moved to Los Banos.

If you’d like to drop her a note of encouragement, send it to 13001 La Mirada Ave., No. 117, La Mirada, Calif. 90638.

John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email john.spevak@gmail.com.