Mary Ameche Litts, 76, of Las Cruces, N.M., passed away July 5, 2019, in Las Cruces.
Mary Ameche Litts was born in Davenport, Iowa, to Fenton Barnard and Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Keating on Oct. 22, 1942. She attended Muscatine Community School District, Grinnell College and graduated from the University of Iowa. After retiring, Mary married Stephen Litts on July 9, 2009, in Iowa City and moved to Spirit Lake. Life's journey took her and her husband to Las Cruces in 2011, where she was a member of the League of Women Voters. Mary grew to love New Mexico but remained an avid supporter of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Mary served the University of Iowa in various administrative capacities for more than 40 years, including at the Iowa Memorial Union, in student services, at the president's residence under University of Iowa president Hunter Rawlings (1988-1995) and eventually serving as director of volunteer services at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (1995-2008). During those 13 years, she helped develop programs and created new services to improve the patient and family experience, such as the Rossi Volunteer Guest House, Caring Clowns, and nationally recognized programs including the College Student Leader Board, certified dog and family pet visitation program, Memories Videos and Cherished Portraits, and professional in-house salon services helping patients look good and feel better. The enhanced internal fundraising models she implemented continue to allow hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to be distributed to patient and family programs. Mary served her communities in roles as varied as the board of Johnson County's Elder Services Inc. to planning committees for national professional organizations including ASDVS (now the Association for Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals.) Other affiliations included the Iowa Directors of Volunteer Services, Rotary International and United Way of Johnson County. Mary was a person who thought of others first. Many recall her as the consummate hostess. Whether presiding over a football tailgate, a dinner at the president's home, or a volunteer recognition event, she had a gift for making people feel welcome, comfortable and valued.
Mary was preceded in death by her father and mother, Fenton and Betty Barnard.
Surviving members of Mary's family include her husband, Stephen (Steve) Litts; her daughter, Anne Burmeister, and son-in-law, Ornan McLean; her son, Paul Burmeister, and her daughter-in-law, Anne West Burmeister; her sister, Julia Carver Thorne, and her brother-in-law, Rick Thorne; and two grandsons, Ben and Sam Burmeister. Other surviving members from their blended family include Meg Litts, Chloe Jackson, Madeline Litts, Jason Litts and Riikka Salonen, and Marjorie and Tone Quine-Smith.
Both personally and professionally, Mary was a passionate supporter of the human/canine bond. Her ashes will be interred in Muscatine along with the remains of several of her previously departed, cherished and devoted four-legged companions, Moe, Rudy and Charley.
A Celebration of Life will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mary's memory to WomenSafe, P.O. Box 67, Middlebury, VT 05753; or the University of Iowa Foundation, UI Hospitals and Clinics for Volunteer Services, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, IA 52244.
Arrangements are made with La Paz-Graham's Funeral Home, 555 W. Amador, Las Cruces, NM 88005; www.LaPaz-Grahams.com.