Mary Baumhover (right) and her husband, Virgil, load donated items while volunteering at the Community of Concern Food Pantry.
Mary Baumhover (right) and her husband, Virgil, load donated items while volunteering at the Community of Concern Food Pantry.

August 9, 2017

Growing up in a home atmosphere of kindheartedness, Mary Baumhover has made community service and volunteerism for charities a central part of her life.

Just a few of the beneficiaries of her efforts have been New Hope, Community of Concern and Carroll County Historical Society. She’s served on the Carroll City Council, assisted political campaigns, served on school organizations, been a member of Catholic Daughters of the Americas, led Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts groups, and helped plan community celebrations.

She’s done that and much more (see accompanying text box and Q&A) while she and husband, Virgil, raised a family of five daughters and two sons. She’s still found time to satisfy her love for writing, authoring two books and writing historical columns and feature stories for the Daily Times Herald.

Along the way she battled breast cancer and underwent two surgeries. She’s a 28-year survivor.

Tirelessly dedicating her efforts to others recently earned Baumhover Citizen of Character honorable mention in the Iowa Character Awards program.

The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University since 2005 has honored more than 100 Iowans for demonstrating good character through the pillars of Character Counts: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.

Tam Milligan and C.J. Niles, both of Carroll, spearheaded Baumhover’s nomination, and letters of endorsement were written by Frank Hermsen, retired New Hope executive director; Barbara Hackfort, Carroll County Historical Society president and Carroll Historic Preservation chairwoman; and Vicki Gach, Carroll Historic Preservation Commission vice chairwoman.

Hermsen said he’s worked with Baumhover in several different capacities for more than 40 and enthusiastically supported her nomination.

At New Hope, a nonprofit organization that serves adults with disabilities, Hermsen said, “I knew Mary as a very responsible employee in several different jobs and whatever she was asked to do. Mary was always trustworthy and did what she said she would do. ...

“Mary was also a mother of two adult children with disabilities served by New Hope. As a mother and an employee, she was an example of treating people with disabilities with the respect they deserved.”

Hermsen added that in all her roles, Baumhover “always treated people with respect, care and fairness.”

“Mary has certainly demonstrated her commitment to the six Pillars of Character Counts and is most deserving of this award,” Hermsen said.

Hackfort wrote, “Mary’s dedication and commitment to the betterment of our community is evident in every project she undertakes, and she personifies the essence of character.”

Gach praised Baumhover’s conscientious and reliable work for the Historic Preservation Commission as well as her writing and reporting for the Remember When and Echoes of the Early Years columns and other feature stories.

“Her articles for the local newspaper are gems of preserved history,”  Gach said. “She includes more than statistics and facts; her articles also capture the context and feelings of the events and people she writes about. A skilled interviewer, Mary connects effectively with all of her subjects, and she digs for ‘the inside story.’ She relates well with people of all ages. Mary  is a pleasure to work with and learn from!”

Baumhover, 78, was born in Waukon, Iowa, the oldest of Martin and Neda Maher’s three daughters and four sons.

In 1939, the family moved to Carroll, where her dad was advertising manager for the Daily Times Herald for 31 years and her mom was a homemaker.  For Baumhover, examples of compassion began at home and continued with many others in her life. She attended St. Lawrence Catholic Grade School and then St. Angela Academy for two years before it became Kuemper High School, where she graduated in 1956.

Her career positions have included work for Dr. W.L. Ward, a podiatrist, for four years; Dr. Michael J. Hall, a dentist, for three years; and public relations coordinator for New Hope for 11 years.

She married Virgil Baumhover, a Mount Carmel native, on Nov. 3, 1956, at St. Lawrence Church in Carroll. Virgil started Baumhover Construction Inc. in 1956, took two years out to serve in Korea and went back to work many years until he retired about 10 years ago. He also had the Chief Metal Franchise in Carroll several years, built several local business buildings and hundreds of home in his own development in northeast Carroll and the throughout the town.

Mary and Virgil have seven children:

— Laura, married to Greg Stevens, currently lives in Puyallup, Washington. Laura was a special-education and elementary-education teacher for 34 years and is currently retired.

— Joseph, lives in Ainsworth, Iowa, and works for a private agency that deals with student loans.

— Amy, married to Lee Weber, currently lives in Lisbon, Iowa, and has had careers in the arts and conservation fields.

— Carol, married to Todd O’Donnell, lives in Marion, Iowa, and is a principal in the Linn-Marr School system. She has been in the education field for about 30 years.

— Lisa was a resident of New Hope Village and passed away in 1994.

— Sara, married to John Smith, lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and has a Ph.D in communications technology and is a professor at the University of Iowa.

— Paul is a resident of New Hope and works at Pella Corp. and various other jobs.

The Baumhovers have 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Baumhover said of her hobbies and other interests, “I enjoy our family and all the things I do, especially the writing.

My days are full, and I am blessed.”

In the awards program, a volunteer selection committee of 50 members was responsible for reading nominations and selecting winners for each category. Baumhover was honored in the Citizen of Character category.

The Ray Center’s mission is to improve civility and develop ethical leaders throughout the world. 



The following is a question-and-answer exchange with Mary Baumhover of Carroll, who was recognized in the Iowa Character Awards program at the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University in Des Moines.

Q: What is your reaction to receiving this recognition?

A: I am humbled. I don’t feel that I do that much more than many others, and what I have participated in has been to help my family and other causes where people are in need.  It does help to be a strong-minded woman to get things done.

Q: Since this is a Character Counts award, what are your thoughts on the importance of good character?

A: I think it is important to be a person that others can respect, whether you are liked or not. If people can depend on you to try to do what is right, to help find answers and to give help and support, that to me demonstrates character. Giving respect to others is inherent in earning their respect.

Q: What is day in the life of Mary Baumhover like considering all your volunteerism?

A: I am a list person and try to organize my day to put time to things that need to be accomplished, mixing it up with my favorite satisfactions of writing and sewing.

Q: Are there any volunteer causes that are a little more meaningful for you?   

A: With two children with disabilities, sharing concerns with other parents, and finding answers to needs of people with disabilities has always been a priority. There is great satisfaction in helping people, especially children through the Community of Concern Food Pantry. Serving on the Carroll City Council was a very good education in finding a balance in working with people in the community and following the rules and laws of good governing. A love of history is fulfilled working in the County Historical Museum and writing historical columns.

Q: A lot of people recognize the importance of volunteerism but don’t make the step to do it. What’s driven you to so much involvement? What is the need you see?

A: There are needs all around us and not enough time to take care of them. In the years my children with disabilities were young, there were very few services. They were not allowed to be part of the school systems, so we started a preschool and nagged the county school system until services were made available. Now funding is the main concern. The Food Pantry was started as a need recognized by state officials, and others in Carroll organized the churches and schools to start a pantry 36 years ago. I am pleased to be asked to help with that. Most people who are asked to help are happy to do it.

Q: Maybe you can share your secret for having so much energy.   

A: I am fortunate to be of good health, and as I say, being a strong-minded woman who likes to get things done serves me in good stead, although others may not always appreciate it.

Q: What kind of examples/role models have you had in life that inspired you to volunteerism?

A: My father (Martin Maher) was a kind-hearted man who would sit with friends suffering through illnesses, even though he was busy earning a living and raising seven children. Art Neu (former Iowa lieutenant, Carroll mayor and attorney) was always a great inspiration of a humble person who had great vision and common sense and a wonderful sense of humor. There have been several women in the League of Women Voters and other groups who were great leaders, teachers of our children who were dedicated, and our own children have stepped forward to be leaders in their professions and careers and taught and affirmed the things I do.

Q: How has volunteerism been satisfying or rewarding to you?

A: It’s a wonderful feeling to share concerns with others and be able to work toward giving help. Getting to know people and realizing that everyone has worries that we can at least listen to is important. In the last couple of years, sharing in the experiences of the veterans who have enjoyed the honor flights has been such a privilege. Just to hear them talk and be able to write about what they have been through has been very meaningful.

Q: Have there been frustrations/disappointments as well in doing what you believe are the right things?   

A: Of course. Working with the government is especially frustrating when the people you serve depend so much on capable persons having the understanding and compassion to do what is needed.  Of course they need to do what I think is right!

Q: Any observations on the state of volunteerism today and why it’s important that it be a strong fabric of life?   

A: The human touch is still the best way to help people.  A little kindness goes a long way. And as they say, “What goes around, comes around.” Volunteers gain a great deal just in working with people, but also in the appreciation of others.

Q: Since you write the Remember When and Echoes columns as well as many other historical features for the Daily Times Herald, why has that opportunity interested you so strongly?  

A: I have always loved history and the “detective” aspect of finding all the details and connections of a person, place or event, but what I didn’t realize when I started was all the connections to be made with so many interesting people. I have so enjoyed meeting the families-descendants of early Carroll people and people involved with historical places. I also am an English “nerd” and enjoy putting words together.