Mary (Hammond) Iber
May 7, 1949 - January 2, 2014


Mary Hammond Iber, a librarian at Cornell College who lived in Mount Vernon, Iowa, died unexpectedly in her sleep on Jan. 2, 2014. She was 64. Six days earlier, she had surgery for an aortic dissection, and she had been discharged from the hospital to recover at the home of one of her brothers, George Hammond, in Orinda, Calif., the evening before she passed away.

She spent a joyful Christmas with her son and his family, including her new grandson, before she suddenly became ill. In the following days, she was comforted by visits to the hospital from her son, a good friend, a nephew, and four of her brothers.

A consulting librarian for natural sciences and kinesiology and a college archivist at Cornell’s Cole Library, Mary was known for helping faculty and students find the answers to their science questions, and acting as a mentor and advisor to students. From 2001 to 2010, she also taught courses as an adjunct instructor at the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. She published several articles on library issues and presented papers at library conferences. In 2013 she achieved the status of full professor at Cornell.

She was on the executive board of the Iowa Library Association/Association of College and Research Libraries from 2008 to 2011 and in 2013, and had been a member of the Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission since 2011. She was also working with an Iowa team that was uncovering the participation of Iowans in civil-rights issues in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom March.

Born Mary Patricia Hammond on May 7, 1949, in Kenosha, Wis., she was the second of Eugene R. and Patricia V. Hammond’s 12 children and the oldest daughter. Mary’s childhood days were filled with many adult responsibilities: caring for her younger siblings, cooking for them, cutting their hair, and cleaning the house, alongside doing her schoolwork, enjoying a special group of friends, and playing the organ, piano, and cello.

Mary graduated from St. Mark the Evangelist Grade School in 1963 and from St. Joseph High School in 1967. She then attended Marquette University, along with Margo Hammond, her cousin and close friend. Mary’s high-school experience of working in the office of the orthodontist Dr. Baumgartner guided her toward a major in dental hygiene. To help put herself through college, she worked every summer, for two years as a waitress at Mars Cheese Castle and one year serving food at Great Lakes Naval Station, on a shift that began before dawn. She earned a bachelor’s of science in dental hygiene from Marquette in 1971. After graduation, she moved to Madison, Wis., where she was an instructor in the dental auxiliary programs at Madison Area Technical College for two years. She also learned Transcendental Meditation and later became a Transcendental Meditation teacher. For the rest of her life, she used meditation as a way to turn within, and she followed Ayurvedic practices of health. She enjoyed restful times at the Transcendental Meditation Program of Fairfield, Iowa.

Her son, Patrick Iber, was born in 1981, in Santa Cruz, Calif., during her marriage of 18 years to George Leland Iber. The family later moved to Fairfield, Iowa, and Iowa City. Mary proudly watched Patrick go off to Stanford University to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and then the University of Chicago to earn a Ph.D. in history.

For 12 years, she worked as a library specialist at the testing organization ACT Inc., in Iowa City.

She earned a master of arts in library and information sciences from the University of Iowa in 2000 and joined Cornell College that same year.

A devoted daughter, she made many visits to Kenosha to care for her parents in their declining years. Her father preceded her in death in 2000 and her mother in 2009. Mary brought her large family together by devising homemade greeting cards and by updating a list of everyone’s contact information and birthdays annually. She had a sense of creativity and fun and liked to design elaborate costumes to wear to the library’s Halloween gathering. One year she hosted a foreign student, Smriti Angara, in her home, and she traveled to Hyderabad, India, in 2007 for an Indian celebration of Smriti’s wedding.

However large her own family, Mary always found room to bring others under her wing. She leaves behind her son, Patrick, and daughter-in-law, Nicole Louie, and her two young grandchildren, Isaiah and Julian Iber, all of El Cerrito, Calif.; her longtime companion, John Lediaev, of Coralville, Iowa; four sisters, Ruth Hammond, of Falls Church, Va.; Carol Wilson, of Elkhorn, Wis.; Theresa (Carolin Bouchard) Hammond, of Oakland, Calif.; and Barbara Hammond, of New York City; seven brothers, Eugene R. (Kathy) Hammond Jr., of Port Jefferson, N.Y.; Louis Hammond, of Romney, W.V.; George (Maria) Hammond, of Orinda, Calif.; Ralph Hammond, of Oakland, Calif.; Gary Hammond, of Ventura, Calif.; Bill (Cris) Hammond, of Hanover, N.H.; and Peter (Michelle Miller) Hammond, of Minneapolis, Minn.; 13 nieces and nephews; and many dear friends, cousins, library colleagues, and Cornell College students.

A memorial service commemorating Mary’s life will be held at Cornell College’s King Chapel, in Mount Vernon, Iowa, at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 1, 2014 with a reception to follow in the college’s Cole Library. Another service will be held in her memory that day at 10 a.m. at St. Gabriel and All Angels Church, in Fairfield, Iowa, A private cremation ceremony was held at Chapel of the Chimes, in Oakland, Calif., on January 12, 2014.

  Mom arrived to visit us on December 24, 2013 and spent December 25th with her two grandsons. I am so glad that she had a day with Julian. In the morning, we took Isaiah to play at the park. Here they are lying side-by-side on the slide, looking at the sky. That night, she went to the hospital with what proved to be an aortic dissection. She had a successful surgery two days later, and was looking forward to a complete recovery. On the day she was discharged from the hospital, January 1st, she went to bed and passed away peacefully in her sleep at some time the next day.

Patrick Iber

December 25, 2013. An afternoon walk with Mom's beloved grandson that now looks to me like a picture of the transition that she would soon make. Her love will stay with us, and I hope that Isaiah will remember the great love that they shared.

Swimming in the crystalline water at the bottom of a cave, Parque Nacional del Este.


Grandson Isaiah


St. Mark Catholic Grade School
Class of 1963 Eighth Grade
50-Year Class Reunion
June 8, 2013
Sunnyside Club


Musings: In Iber’s death, Cornell and community loses big helper
January 17, 2014 · Jake Krob
Mt. Vernon-Lisbon Sun

Reading through Mary Iber's obituary, her helpful nature now makes perfect sense.

A consulting librarian at Cole Library and the archivist for Cornell since 2000, Mary died Jan. 2 after emergency surgery Dec. 28 for an aortic dissection. She was 64.

You might not have known Mary. She wasn't one of those always in the news.

But she was a big helper both on the hilltop and beyond - and leaves a tremendous lasting impact on this place, particularly through one project.

Mary played a lead role in getting all past copies of local newspapers - from the Sun to it predecessors 154 years ago - online and searchable through the library website (colelibrary.org). It's an enormous resource for preserving the history of our community, and is making it accessible to all.

Mary wrote about the project in a May 2013 Cole Corner column published in the Sun. She told of how Cole librarian Cathy Boggs had dreamt of the project for years, and how library board member Deb George "recognized its values" and became a champion for the project.

With that support, helper Mary jumped in to make it a reality. She used her expertise as an archivist, and her passion for local history as a member of the volunteer Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission, to find the way to make the project work.

It was Mary being Mary, no doubt.

After all, she was a helper by nature.

Her obituary is full of examples of that attribute. The second of 12 children, "Mary's childhood days were filled with many adult responsibilities" as she helped care for her siblings in Wisconsin.

After moving to Iowa, she regularly made trips to help care for her parents in Wisconsin.

She kept her family connected through the years: "Mary brought her large family together by devising homemade greeting cards and by updating a list of everyone's contact information and birthdays annually."

It was fitting, then, that in 2000 she earned a master's in library and information sciences from the University of Iowa, and landed a job in Mount Vernon at Cornell.

Her job here was to help others, particularly as a consulting librarian for the sciences at Cornell.

The thing is, Mary didn't see it as "just my job." She was passionate and friendly about helping others.

The comments following her obituary on the Cornell website tell the story best.

As Lisa White, director of alumni engagement, said:

"Mary was always up for a research challenge and would get a sparkle in her eye and a gentle smile on her face whenever she was presented with one."

Others wrote that Mary was "incredibly kind" and never made a negative comment about anyone.

There's no doubt that's Mary's lasting legacy - she was a helper to all.