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Mary Lou Pitzer helps teach the children's choir at St. Matthias United Methodist Church in Stafford County. Pitzer, 70, is also a Sunday school teacher. She's been at church every Sunday for 59 years, without fail.
Pitzer, chatting with Sunday school members, has faithfully shown up for church every Sunday since 1953.
Mary Lou Pitzer walks Ian Thompson and her granddaughter, Maya Wick, to choir practice. If Pitzer happens to be out of town, she finds a church to attend wherever she is.
By CATHY DYSON
Mary Lou Pitzer hasn't missed a day
She was named the international poster girl for Sunday school attendance in 2005 by the United Methodist News Service, when she had only 52 years under her belt.
A video about her called her the "Sunday school superstar." But it seems that Pitzer brings that kind of energy to every thing she does.
"She's like a turbo rocket," said Sheri Pierce, a Stafford High School teacher with Pitzer, who taught for 42 years and supposedly retired six years ago.
Yet, Pitzer still tutors math students in her home and teaches English to middle-school students twice a week.
At Stafford High, she continues to help with the end-of-year awards programs. She washes and irons table skirts, orders awards and flowers and types names on certificates.
"There's little jobs that she's just always done, and she enjoys doing, and I enjoy her doing it," said Pierce, the senior-class sponsor. "I find her very valuable."
Pitzer shows the same dedication to St. Matthias United Methodist Church off Deacon Road in Stafford. She's Sunday school superintendent, treasurer and the incoming mission chairperson. She sings in the choir, helps lead the children's group of singers and is the Vacation Bible School cook.
Pitzer also organizes the annual event to get bicycles, helmets and coats for needy children.
"She never stops," said Chris Embrey, the administrative assistant at church. "She really has a heart for what she does, and she really enjoys helping children."
Fellow church member Margaret Ann Holt suggested a story about Pitzer because it would be "a great encouragement to others in what just one person can accomplish."
Pitzer, who smiles easily and often, says she's blessed in more ways than she can name. When she visits friends in nursing homes--and she's made a lot of trips lately--she's grateful that she's active and healthy.
She's 70 and doesn't take medicine of any kind, only vitamins.
She said that not missing a day of Sunday school in almost six decades--unless the weather was so bad, the service was canceled--is the least she can do.
"God's blessed my life, and I can certainly give back an hour of my time to him," she said.
Pitzer was 11 when she joined Morgan's Chapel United Methodist Church in New River, Va. It was the Sunday before Labor Day, 1953.
She was given a class of toddlers, which fueled her determination to be there when the doors opened.
"When you're teaching children, you don't want to miss," she said.
Then, she just made up her mind to be in class every Sunday morning at 10 a.m.
She and her husband, Gene, who have been married for 46 years, had their wedding ceremony on a Sunday. It was at 4 in the afternoon so she could go to church in the morning.
"Everybody thinks that's funny," she said.
As the years went by, her husband, two children and five grandchildren supported her. Whenever she was on vacation or visiting a relative, she looked for a church to visit.
While on vacation in Hawaii one Christmas, she attended a unity service for all denominations. She went to a Mormon church while she was on a Navajo Indian reservation. And while taking the grandchildren to Disney World, she found a church meeting in an Orlando hotel.
"Christians are all the same, no matter where you go," Pitzer said. "What I enjoy the most about Sunday school is everybody's friendly. You sit around, have coffee, and I just find it so exciting to talk to and to meet new people."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Her husband, Gene, walks about six miles a day and she joins him for an evening walk. She also takes exercise classes at St. Matthias United Methodist Church, where she lifts weights and walks. She does water aerobics twice a week.
One day this summer, she and her aerobics class went to the Massad YMCA Water Park while the pool they usually use was being cleaned. Some in the group looked at the water slides and said, "Look, we're 70, we can't do that."
Not Mary Lou Pitzer. "Our grandchildren said we were acting like teenagers."