Mary Landau says her favorite memories of working as a secretary at Central DeWitt High School are simply too many to list.
Homecoming, including the dress-up days, is at the top of the list.
Landau and her former co-worker, Linda Ryan, always participated in the dress-up days right along with the students.
One year, the pair even dressed as Vanna White, and made a “Wheel of Fortune” wheel, which sat in the office and included prizes.
Landau assisted for many years with the annual Grand March at prom, and she loved seeing the students dressed so nice. She also enjoyed helping with commencement exercises — which she did for all 32 years of her career at the school before retiring this past spring.
Even after more than three decades of service, Landau never considered going to work a chore. She figured, the more hustle and bustle there was in the office, the better.
Landau’s duties were almost too many to note, but what always motivated her and what she always valued most about her work were the students.
She endeavored to get to know each and every one of them by name; to listen to and comfort them when they had a problem or cheer them on when they had good news to share.
Landau’s youngest daughter, Carrie Bacha, a 1992 graduate of Central DeWitt, said her mother’s caring and concern for students continued after they graduated from school.
“She wanted to see them succeed, and still does,” Bacha wrote in an email. “My mom is constantly telling me about students, and how well they are doing or what new job they received. Every person I meet who only knows me because of my mom will say things like, ‘She is the best, she is wonderful, she is such a great person and she has the best heart.’”
Landau ended up getting the job at the high school back in 1987 thanks to a tip from a local Realtor, after she and her husband, Gary, and their two daughters, Jenny and Carrie, moved to town from Minnesota.
She had grown up on a farm in Hawarden, Iowa, and graduated from West Sioux Community High School in 1969. Three years later, she married Gary, her high school sweetheart.
Landau learned about serving her community from her mom, who was very involved in volunteering.
Bacha said, in addition to all of her responsibilities at the school, Landau always would be thinking of others.
“Growing up, we would tease her when she would make a big batch of lasagna and/or chicken noodle soup for parents of sick friends, families going through hard times, and, at times, simply to welcome a new family.
“She would be busy at work, would take tickets for a game, take care of her motherly duties, but would then take care of other people by making them something from her heart.”
In addition to taking tickets at all kinds of sporting events, Landau also kept track of the money from concession stands, vending machines and school events. She worked as the secretary for the Central DeWitt Educational Foundation for many years, and she loved being able to assist an organization that gives so much to students and teachers.
Central DeWitt Activities Director Kurt Kreiter described Landau as the high school’s greatest ambassador.
His own mother had been a high school secretary, so Kreiter understood how essential the job is to the well-being of the school.
The two worked together for all of Landau’s 32 years, and they forged a genuine friendship.
“I am so glad I got to spend my entire career working with her,” he related. “I’m going to miss seeing and talking with her.”
Current middle and high school principal George Pickup said no one could be a bigger Saber fan than Landau.
“I think this has been Mary’s second family,” he said of staff members at the school. “What I really appreciate about her is all the connections within our community that she’s made. The biggest thing I see in Mary is the pride she has in our district. How truly dedicated she is. She really is the face of the high school.”
Bacha estimates the number of students, co-workers and families whose lives her mom has touched hovers somewhere in the thousands.
“She has provided help to countless graduates; 32 classes of kids,” Bacha shared. “On average, Central DeWitt has 115 graduating seniors each year. Roughly 4,000 students and families were directly involved with her at some point, and it is my belief, they are better for it.”