Leisure World Centenarian, Mutual 9
by Dee Harmon, daughter
Mary Francis Duitz was born April 28,1922 in Jeffersonville, Indiana, one of four girls born to Leo and Mary Duitz. The highlight of Mary’s childhood was having sisters, being able to attend school before she met the legal age requirement and experiencing a horrendous flood that relocated them to a grandma, aunt, and uncle’s 2-bedroom apartment for a month.
Mary was active in the USO in Indiana. She danced, played ping-pong, chatted, and wrote letters to several of the servicemen who frequented the USO as a place to relax. It was there she met a young serviceman who 6 months later became her husband. The day after her marriage to Claude Cox, Mary moved from Indiana to sunny California. It was here her new roots began to grow. They started a family of their own with the birth of their son Wayne. Three-and-a-half years later they were blessed with another child, but this time a girl Dee Mary.
The family spent happy times playing Ping-Pong, picnicking, and camping, mostly at state beaches with a host of family and friends.
After a 50-year career with State Farm and the death of her first husband, Mary lived with her daughter, Dee, and son-in-law, Brian in Orange. She had 16 happy years there spending time with her granddaughter Kelly.“By 1999 many of my friends had died, and I was feeling stagnant and lost,” Mary said. About that time, a high school friend had Mary over for lunch in her Leisure World home and two weeks later Mary took out her checkbook. “Moving here was wonderful. I never looked back,” Mary said.
She bought into Mutual 9 and met the Doderos, who immediately introduced her to the Cribbage Club. “I felt so welcome,” Mary said. She played cribbage every week. It so happened that a nice man named Roger Wieber shared Mary and Tony’s table. Roger was elected president of the club and Mary the secretary. The two worked closely together, got to know each other and boom, they were married in a matter of months. They shared club life and it was good. When asked about wedding gifts the only thing they could think of was a new blender. Mary’s family, being the jokesters they are, had all family members buy identical blenders. While opening each new present hubby Roger laughed so hard he cried.
“He was friendly, personable, romantic. There were flowers on the table, good food at meals, everything was a big treat,” Mary remembered. The marriage lasted 18 months, and then Roger, who was wheelchair-bound after losing his legs to infection, died of cancer in 2002.
In January, Mary returned to the club. That’s when she cried into her cards. Her compassionate club pals urged her to keep coming. She did, and it helped.
She quickly ended up as club secretary again, when the former one became ill. Tasked with nominating officers for 2003-2004 terms, she finally asked Gary Greytak to be president, who had joined earlier. “He said yes, and I nearly fell over. I said I would help him as secretary,” said Mary.
They worked together for the Cribbage Club, which really must be the friendliest club on earth, because a few months later, Gary asked Mary out to dinner. She wasn’t sure, but finally agreed. Gary, a civil engineer in his working life, asked her to marry him soon thereafter. She said yes, and the couple were married in November 2004 at Holy Family Church. It was a match made in heaven. The marriage was marked by great love and affection. Once again Mary’s family was at a loss for wedding gifts. Being the jokesters they still were, they stuffed 300 balloons with a dollar in each and filled the couple’s bathroom from top to bottom with balloons. “Gary’s delight at popping 300 balloons was quite a sight!” Mary said. “He too laughed until he cried.”
“Married nearly 15 years, we never felt the honeymoon was over,” said Mary with a big smile. Gary liked to say, “We are two peas in a pod.”
“He was a great husband, it was a great marriage,” said Mary. “We never let things get us down.” Gary would say, “She’s got George, and I’ve got Jezebel,” referring to her walker and his oxygen tank. Making light of the hard things was their way of carrying the burden.
Mary served 14 years as secretary of the club and Gary was president for 10. Her biggest accomplishment was compiling the photos, minutes, and whatnots for the 50-year history of the club and filing it with the LW Historical Society.
During Gary’s term as president, players were awarded stars on their ID badges for perfect games. It was a big morale booster. With the other officers, he organized the play so that waiting between games was minimized. “We keep upbeat and we try to keep everyone upbeat,” she said.
She pulled out a quote from a Cribbage Club president file, circa 1967. It said: “We are a club of senior citizens, who do not in all cases hear as well as we formerly did. Nor do we play quite as fast, and the fact is that our members are so very considerate and kind in helping all players have an enjoyable game of cards.” Mary has often heard of others who think this sentiment applies as much today as it did nearly 50 years ago. “Giving to others makes life worthwhile,” said Mary. “I’ve never been happier that in my last years.”
Unfortunately, Gary lost his battle with cancer and passed away in July 2019. Devasted once again with such a great loss Mary somehow knew she would carry on. Today Mary spends her days in Mutual 6 reading, listening to the radio or TV, and talking with friends. Her Cribbage Club days may be in the past, but she has a great group of friends who come to her house once a week to enjoy a challenging game. Mary says it been a great life. “I can’t believe I am almost 100 years old,” she said. Mary has served as area director for mutual 8, participated in many card clubs, and volunteered with many service organizations during her 23 years in Leisure World. She has seen and experienced many things. She has been to all 50 states, taken a voyage on a real submarine, flown in a hot air balloon, and been to many countries overseas. She has a great family including a daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, three granddaughters, three great-grandsons and one great- granddaughter.