Mary Allnutt Hettlinger, a longtime Gambier resident and the widow of Professor Richard F. Hettlinger H’85, died Monday, Aug. 24, at her home on Woodside Drive. She was 87.
Mary, who was born in London on Sept. 2, 1927, came to Gambier in 1960 with her husband, who had accepted a position at Kenyon in which half his time was devoted to the chaplaincy and the other half to the religion department. Dick Hettlinger became a full-time member of the religion faculty in 1964 and later a founder and, beginning in 1975, director of the Integrated Program in Humane Studies. He retired from the faculty in 1985.
In the late 1960s, Mary and Dick worked with architect James D. Morgan ’57 to build one of Gambier’s most distinctive homes, a multilevel modernist structure in the woods at the end of Allen Drive. After Dick’s retirement, the Hettlingers moved to the house on Woodside Drive where Mary lived until her death.
“I first met Mary when I was a student here in the first class of women,” recalled Liz Forman ’73, former senior associate director of admissions. “Mary along with a small cohort of other women in the community reached out to the new female students and did their best to make us feel at home in Gambier. Just as she did later through her dogs, Mary set the stage to forge new friendships that would ripple out to encompass a huge number of folks who met each other and who met Gambier and Knox County through her good company and friendship.
“Mary knitted Gambier together in ways that none of us could have predicted,” Forman added. “Widely read, passionate about architecture, art and classical music, always ready to debate American and British politics, Mary was unpredictable, lively and fun. She was a bit of a soft touch for a conniving canine, so I know she will be missed by my terrier and his cohort. There is something missing today for all of us who became friends with each other because they were friends with the remarkable Mary Hettlinger.”
Until recently, Mary was a faithful member of the “Dog Group,” a Gambier institution for many years. An enthusiastic dog owner, rarely seen without a canine companion, she also was involved in the activities of the Knox County Humane Society. In addition, she undertook volunteer work with Planned Parenthood for many years.
“Mary and her beloved dog Frannie were the genesis of the ‘Gambier Puppy Play Group,’ which, ultimately, came to play permanently in the Gambier Dog Park,” remembered Mary’s friend Betsy Heer. “More than one generation of dogs and dog owners revered her as the ‘Treat Lady,’ and the dogs of Gambier mourn her passing.
“Mary was a smart, sassy and wonderfully opinionated woman of liberal ideals,” Heer added. “An avid reader of the New York Times and The Nation and watcher of Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show,’ she was never at a loss for an insightful opinion on the world and her adopted country.”
Associate Professor of Biology Karen Hicks recalled Mary as “a bit of a recluse, although her friends knew her as a warm, generous and vivacious woman with a sharp intellect and a fabulous laugh. Subversive in both her sense of humor and her take on the world, Mary was unwilling to accept the status quo or be constrained by stereotypes of age, class or gender.
“My husband and I met Mary shortly after we arrived in Gambier through our dogs, who became best friends, and her friendship was a central part of our incorporation into the Gambier and Kenyon communities,” Hicks said. “I treasure my memories of dog walks together on the College’s athletic fields, in the Gambier Dog Park and at Wolf Run, and I hope I’ll always be able to see her smile and hear her laugh, if only in my mind.”
Mary is survived by two daughters, Sarah A. Hettlinger and Karen J. Hettlinger ; two sons, Stephen R. Hettlinger and Graham P. Hettlinger; and four grandchildren. Her husband died July 23, 1995, at the age of 75.
A memorial gathering will be scheduled and announced to the community in the near future. Interment will be in the College cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Gambier Dog Park in care of the Village of Gambier, P.O. Box 1984, Gambier, Ohio, 43022.