Mary Ellen Biek (née Casey)
Published 7:02 am Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Feb. 12, 1929-April 21, 2023
Mary Ellen Biek, wife of Eugene Biek, mother of six boys, artist, teacher, and world traveler, died peacefully in her sleep April 21, 2023, at The Vistas in Redding, California. She was 94.
Mary Ellen met the love of her life, Eugene Biek, in her senior year at Central High School in Dowagiac, Michigan. There, she was on the yearbook staff and was yearbook editor in her senior year, graduating in 1947. She especially enjoyed mechanical drawing and was one of only two young women in that class. After Gene graduated from MIT, they were married Oct. 6, 1950, at the Congregational Church in Dowagiac. They had dated two times before he left for college but knew that they would be spending their lives together.
Mary Ellen attended Michigan State College in Lansing but withdrew early to work with sign painter and uncle Marshall Maxedon. She always had a fondness for drawing and sketching but became a talented and prolific artist later in life when the family moved to Redding and art kept her sane while caring for six boys. She especially enjoyed oil painting. Still life and portraits were her favorites, and she later painted and sold countless paintings through the Redding art center.
After they were married, they first lived in Chicago where Mary Ellen worked at Shell Oil Company and Gene worked in the Technical Department of Allied Chemical and Dye Company. After their first son, David, was born in 1952 they decided to leave Chicago for Niagara, Wisconsin, where Gene worked as a chemical engineer at the Kimberly Clark pulp and paper mill. Sons James, Donald, John, and Robert were born there. In 1962, Gene was transferred to Neenah, Wisconsin, where son Michael was born. Then in 1965, Gene (and several of his colleagues and their families) was transferred to Anderson, California, and the new Kimberly Clark pulp and papermill. Mary Ellen was fond of saying that trip across the country in a station wagon with six boys was her first vacation! (Her many other vacations were when she usually stayed home while Gene took the boys camping.) They bought a house on Alta Mesa Drive in Redding in the Western Ranches subdivision and lived there for 57 years.
After her boys left for college and other adventures, Mary Ellen enjoyed being a teacher’s aide. Most of the time she was at Parsons or Sequoia schools; she often rode her bicycle to school. Mary Ellen also taught English as a second language to immigrants newly arrived from southeast Asia. She played violin (one that her Grandpa Maxedon made) and later string bass.
After Eugene retired in 1989, they travelled the world. They enjoyed touring by bicycle through most of Europe, as well as Mexico, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and many bicycle trips in the United States. They always carried tennis racquets and enjoyed playing after most rides. Part of their 50th anniversary was a month of cycling in Greece and Italy. When not bicycling, she stayed in shape with daily early morning neighborhood walks. She also enjoyed horseback riding with friend and neighbor Peggy Brodie.
Mary Ellen’s passing was preceded by that of her parents, Paul and Mary James Casey, and her three sisters, Norene, Kathryn, and Doris Jayne. She is survived by her husband, Eugene, of 72 years, her six sons, seven grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. The family would like to thank the staff at The Vistas Memory Care unit and Mercy Hospice for the compassionate care they provided for Mary Ellen. There will be a private family remembrance held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations to the North Valley Art League would be appreciated.