Martha Ellen Geist
July 14, 1926 - April 17, 2024

Martha Ellen Geist

Martha Ellen Geist
Jul 14, 1926 - Apr 17, 2024

Martha Ellen Geist
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Martha Ellen (Lewis) Geist

Martha Ellen (Lewis) Geist, 97, of Ames, died of heart failure at Israel Family Hospice House on Wednesday, April 17.

Martha was born on the family farm near Villisca, Iowa, to Edyth (Selley) and LL Lewis on July 14, 1926. She was also welcomed by two brothers, 11-year-old Dale and 9-year-old Martin, and a plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins. As the youngest of a large, extended family, she was fully treasured, but not spoiled. Throughout her life, she was happiest when surrounded by family.

As a child, Martha helped on the farm in the garden and with the animals, and she often rode her pony to country school. When asked, she would freely say she hated gathering eggs from the chicken house. She graduated from Villisca High School at 16, and went to Northwest Missouri State Teachers College. In the fall of her sophomore year, Martha contracted polio, was paralyzed, and spent several months in the University of Iowa Hospitals undergoing treatment with the new Sister Kenny pack treatments. By the spring of 1945, she had recovered enough to work as a page on the Floor of the Iowa House of Representatives, and was chosen Queen of the House by her fellow pages.

In the fall of 1945, she was able to resume her studies in college. While there, Martha met Maury Geist who had recently completed service in the US Army Air Corps. They were married on December 21, 1947, during her first year of teaching and his last year of college. For the next several years, they lived in the small, southwest Iowa towns of Corning, Red Oak, Mount Ayr, and Creston as teachers, moving to their next positions for as little as $100 annual pay raise. Summers were filled with reading, swimming and golf, along with growing, canning and freezing garden produce. Everywhere they lived, Maury and Martha felt privileged to make many great and long-lasting friendships.

In Creston, Iowa, Martha taught English and American Literature to juniors and seniors, encouraging a love of language and writing in her students. In 1966, the Geists moved with their three children to Ames, where Maury worked at the University and Martha began teaching 7th grade English at Welch Junior High School. Until her retirement in 1988, Mrs. Geist somehow made English fun and interesting for seventh graders; she was a perfect mixture of being clever, lively, caring, curious, and really good at her job of keeping kids engaged. She, herself, was a voracious reader, sometimes reading several books a week, finishing the last book just a few days prior to her death.

While Martha loved teaching, nothing was more dear to her than her family. Her son and two daughters, six granddaughters, and eleven great-grandchildren were unconditionally and deeply loved. They filled her heart with joy.

Martha maintained a strong Congregational faith, believing that it was one's actions and treatment of others in life that revealed their beliefs. Her interest in others was always genuine, and it was a pleasure to spend time with her. She loved life and learning, and valued kindness and consideration for all people, without exception or reservation.
Through every age of her life, women's rights and their strength, independence, and empowerment were regarded as essential, and thus these convictions became a large part of the foundation that she ardently instilled in her family, especially her six granddaughters.

Martha is survived by children Kirk (Pauline) Geist of Gilbert, Kathryn (Brian) Breamer of Ankeny, and Susan (Ed) Jones of Ames. She delighted in spending precious time with her six granddaughters and their families, including Sarah Fox Jones (Dan Fox), Kristen Geist (Jared Snethen), Kelly (Christopher) Johnson, Rachel (Nicholas) Schelle, Andrea (Brian) Perry, and Stephanie (Scott) Edwards. She adored her eleven great-grandchildren; Molly, Peter, and Sawyer Fox; Calista and Caedence Snethen; Caleb and Claire Johnson; Martha and Walter Schelle; and Dillon and Lee Perry. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Maury Geist, in March, 2013.

For 58 years, Martha was a member of Ames United Church of Christ, Congregational, teaching Sunday School and then being a member of or chairing just about every service committee the church had! She was also a member of PEO Chapter KR, the National Education Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English.

A celebration of life memorial service will be 1:30 p.m. April 26, 2024, at United Church of Christ Congregational, 217 6th Street, Ames, Iowa. The family will greet friends in the fellowship hall following the service. Interment will be in the Ames Municipal Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the United Church of Christ, Congregational, or to the Ames Public Library.
Online condolences may be directed to

Tom Bliss on May 3, 2024

What a beautiful, wonderful lady who was such a great teacher to us 7th graders at Welch Junior High a few years ago. She was also a welcoming mom and hostess to us Ames High friends of Kathy and Sue. What a privilege it was to spend an afternoon with her during the Ames High Class of 72 reunion.

Tom Bliss

JoAnn Lewis on Apr 26, 2024

What a lovely service for her! She was so blessed by all of you!!
Much Love from Martha’s niece,
JoAnn and my husband, Duane.

Bobbi Borich on Apr 24, 2024

No matter the circumstances, we are never ready to lose our mothers. May you find comfort in your memories and the love of family and friends. My deepest sympathies, Bobbi (Blanford) Borich.

Mary Kay (Reece) Truckenmiller on Apr 22, 2024

Sue-although I never met your Mom, it sounds like she was an amazing woman. My condolences to you and your family.

Tracey Stoll on Apr 20, 2024

Sue, I just read about your mother's passing. I'm sorry for this loss. We are lucky to have had our moms for so many years; my mom will be 95 in Oct. In spite of her physical frailty, she is still a goin' unit. But she is ready for the Good Lord to take her (which she says on occasion). Thinking of you as you journey through this passage. Hugs. - Tracey Stoll



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United Church of Christ
604 Kellogg Ave.
Ames, Iowa 50010
1:30 PM

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