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Wednesday February 8th 2023

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That's what she said

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Greenbelts are for Children


Mavis and Bob McKelvey were a close knit team as they worked to establish the Blue Line (1959) and later the Greenbelt-Open Space Program (1967).

Bob was the public speaker and organizer; Mavis operated behind the scenes, offering advice, calling people, recruiting help and thinking long and hard about the big picture.

It was Mavis who made the observation that,

Greenbelts are for children

and their children,

and their children, —

Mavis loved the out-of-doors.  She would watch the buds and flowers come out on the plants in the spring.  She would look for the baby birds to appear in the nests and then would marvel as they grew and finally took flight. She loved her garden for the flowers, fruits and vegetables it produced and she loved her family.  She was a beautiful person.  My admiration for her continues even though she is gone.

Mavis McKelvey’s obituary is reprinted below:

Mavis McKelvey died on Friday, December 3, at 12:15 AM.  For nearly a year she had resolutely resisted a series of serious illnesses, all now known to have stemmed from an initially invisible but aggressive cancer.  Revealing itself only shortly before her death, it then moved swiftly.  Mavis passed away peacefully in her Missoula home, less than two weeks after entering hospice.

Mavis Jeanette Roubal was born on January 25, 1928 at Saint Joseph Hospital in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  Her mother, Florence Cull, was of Irish American ancestry and her father, Alexander Roubal, was the son of an immigrant woman, of strong peasant stock, who arrived in New York from Prague, with one of her three sons still in her womb.  She subsequently acquired a small farm in southeastern Wisconsin.  The farm prospered and all three sons succeeded in later life.  Alexander became an engineer and designer of heavy equipment at Allis-Chalmers.

Under the strong influence of her mother’s family, Mavis was enrolled in a traditional Roman Catholic school, and studied under the strict tutelage of the nuns.  However in college, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she discovered the social activism that characterized her life.  In 1947 she joined Professor Harold Groves’ Coop House for women students.   It had been founded in 1943, and was described as ”a model for Wisconsin in breaking the traditions of prejudice and segregation through cooperative inter-racial and inter-religious living”.  There her co-residents were “a mix of Jewish, gentile, black and even Nisei “, at the end of a war in which Japanese- Americans had been vilified.

After graduating, with a degree in English Literature, she traveled to Washington DC, initially to mentor a summer interracial Day-Camp for DC kids.   She remained in DC for a year, joining with her Coop roommate, Bobby Kaiser, as a staffer at the Congressional Quarterly.   Bobby’s father was a well-established leader of the DC black community.

In the fall of 1951 she returned to Madison to earn her MA degree.  It was at the coed Green Lantern Eating Coop, located in the Groves Coop basement, that she met Robert McKelvey, then a grad student in math.  They married on August 25, 1952.   Their daughter Maureen was born in Madison in 1953 and their son Kevin in Boulder Colorado in 1956, where Bob had joined the faculty of CU.

In 1970 the family moved to Missoula and became a part of the University community here.  It was in Missoula that Mavis began her innovative activism in public affairs.  Initially she focused on conservation issues, and became a Board Member of the Montana Wilderness Association.

Mavis was deeply involved with community activities in Missoula.  She was deeply committed to the preservation of the Pattee Canyon area and to local historical landmarks such as the Prescott House.  With Chin Won Reinhardt she conceived and organized Missoula’s downtown Farmers Market.  Mavis remained active in its management to the end of the 2010 season.

Throughout her lifetime here,  she offered thoughtful and well researched comments on dozens of local and regional issues, often through the Missoulian’s  Letters-to-the-Editor  columns.

Mavis was also deeply involved with local KUFM public radio.  She developed an environmental -information program and, again with Chin Won Reinhardt, created a Children’s  program, the Pea- Green Boat.  Mavis was a marvelous reader, and her many readings of children’s stories, notably Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series, will continue to delight both children and adults for many years.

Finally, and very important to her, Mavis has three grandchildren, all in their early twenties.  William Spitzer, in Fort Collins, Colorado is the son of Maureen McKelvey  Einert  and her first husband, the late Robert Spitzer of Longmont , Colorado.  Tara McKelvey in Butte and Adrienne McKelvey in Salt Lake City are twin daughters of Kevin and Madeleine McKelvey of Missoula.

As she wished, there will be no funeral for Mavis.  Rather a Celebration of Her Life will take place in spring of 2011, at a time and place to be announced.

Remembrance Gifts to any of these organizations would have pleased Mavis:  The String Orchestra of the Rockies; The Montana Wilderness Association; and the Children’s Section of the Missoula Public Library.

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