Mary was born April 21, 1927, in Albany, California, to John Watkinson and Kathleen Bass, immigrants from England. She was educated at Marin School and Albany High School, where she was valedictorian in 1945. A Phi Beta Kappa student at the University of California, Berkeley, she received degrees in French and Library Science in 1949 and 1950, respectively. She was a librarian at Albany High School from 1966 until she retired in 1993. After retirement, she was a founding member of the Albany Education Foundation and then served as a member of the Albany Unified School District Board of Education from 1998 to 2002. Shortly after completing her term on the school board, Mary returned to the AEF board.
Music was an important part of Mary’s life. She was six years old when she started piano lessons with a neighbor who herself had only had six piano lessons in her life, but Mary progressed rapidly. As a teenager, she earned money for college by playing the piano at fifty cents an hour for dancers and singers, even playing “Song of India” for a sword swallower’s act. For about twenty years she accompanied the annual musical put on at Albany High School. As an adult, she learned to play the organ.
Except for short periods living in Chicago, Paris, Oxford, and Texas, Mary spent almost her entire life in Albany. She was a life-long member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and played the organ at the historic Berkeley Ward meetinghouse for decades. In addition to her volunteer and charitable service with the Mormon community, Mary played the piano at elementary schools in Albany and Richmond following her retirement.
Mary married James C. Wallmann in 1950 who was a research chemist at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) from 1952 until his death in 1965. They had three sons: John, James, and Peter.
“Mary Wallmann has touched many people in Albany, as the high school librarian, accompanist for limitless numbers of musical performances at all of the schools,
Albany School Board member, and member of the Albany Education Foundation Board,” said Dianne McNenny, President of the Albany Education Foundation.
“Mary had a passion for helping children and for playing music. Always willing to volunteer, Mary played a positive and encouraging role in the many efforts she supported in Albany. I remember her most as a warm, insightful, caring woman busy with new tasks to do and folks to help. She leaves a long and memorable legacy in Albany.”
Mary left AEF a generous bequest which was supplemented by donations in her memory from family members and friends upon her passing on September 26, 2013. Recognizing the value she placed on both reading and the availability of books to all children, AEF contributed these funds to provide books for each of the three Transitional Kindergarten classes located at the Albany Children’s Center as well as to establish an onsite library for all ACC students.