Mary Shilts Boster

Mary Shilts Boster

Albany, CA - Mary Shilts Boster, a proud Ohioan from Hudson whose family had multigenerational ties to Western Reserve Academy and Mount Union College, passed away in Albany, California, on August 15, 2020. She was 100 years old.

Mary was born in Akron on March 12, 1920, the daughter of Edna Robens Shilts and William Delbert Shilts, an early Goodyear executive and long-time trustee of Western Reserve Academy and Mount Union College. Mary grew up in Hudson, the youngest of six children. The family moved to Hudson in 1919 and contributed generously to many of its oldest institutions, including the Hudson Library & Historical Society, and Western Reserve Academy. The family's donation of Wildlife Woods in 1959 became the first unit of the Hudson Park System.

Although she moved to California later in life to be near some of her children, Mary often returned to Hudson and Chagrin Falls for visits. She maintained her deepest friendships with a group of classmates from first grade, who into their 90s gathered for frequent vacations that they called "slumber parties." Mary attributed her long life to being raised on farm fresh food in Ohio, and the tastes of sweet corn and maple syrup always reminded her of home.

For high school, Mary attended Southern Seminary, a finishing school in Buena Vista, Virginia, where she was voted Maid of the Mountains, an honor that recognized academic talent, beauty, and grace. At Mount Union College in Alliance, she majored in English literature (with minors in biology and French literature), was president of her sorority Alpha Xi Delta, was voted Homecoming Queen, and there met her future husband, marrying Davis Eugene Boster in December 1942.

As the wife of a U.S. diplomat, Mary lived abroad in seven countries — Russia, Germany, Mexico, Nepal, Poland, Switzerland, and Bangladesh. She and her husband Gene were posted to Moscow twice during the Cold War, first during Stalin's era in 1948 and then again in Brezhnev's era in the 1960s. She moved to California in 1976, living first in Menlo Park and then finding her way to Rohnert Park in 1978, where she resided until shortly before her death. An avid naturalist and gardener, she was a founding member of the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a longtime member of the Santa Rosa Garden Club, serving as its president from 1986 to 1987.

A lifelong learner and an inveterate traveler, Mary visited more than 100 countries. Until her late 90s, she traveled extensively with family and friends and on tours led by educational and special interest groups. Always curious and never one to shy away from risk, Mary had many stories to share at family gatherings. Her first flight was on a Goodyear blimp when she was in her early teens. While living in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the late 1960s, she enjoyed bird watching and trekking in the Himalayas. She climbed to 16,000 feet on a 10-day trek to the Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest and reached 11,000 feet during a subsequent trek in the Annapurna Dhaulagiri range. While in her 60's, Mary rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and narrowly escaped a flash flood while hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru. For her 75th birthday, she took a hot air balloon ride, which ended up crashing to avoid a collision with a power line. She rode an ostrich in South Africa when she was 59 and a camel in Egypt when she was 89. On her third trip to China, in her 90s, she fractured her pelvis in a fall on temple steps, yet forged ahead with a two-week ride on the Trans-Siberian Express, treating her pain with nothing but aspirin. Mary never stopped planning her next trip. On her last adventure at age 99, she enjoyed a cruise in the Hawaiian Islands followed by an exciting voyage home through extremely rough seas in the Pacific.

Mary is survived by her five children: Davis Boster, Jr. (Alyce), of Los Altos, CA; Janis Boster (Lou Sakkestad), of Saint Simons Island, GA; James Boster (Cornelia Dayton), of Stonington, ME; Thomas Boster (Linda), of Napa, CA; and Barbara Boster, of Richmond, CA; as well as 8 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her former husband. Interment and a private graveside memorial will be held in Ohio at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Mary's memory may be made to Western Reserve Academy or Mount Union College.

Posted online on September 20, 2020