For nearly three decades, Mary Louise Starke manned the information booth on the first floor of the Oklahoma County Courthouse.
From her perch next to the courthouse snack bar and shoe shine booth, Starke, better known as Mary Lou, delivered her unwavering brand of kindness to all who passed by.
“She's one of those people who always had a smile on her face and candy for the children,” said Rhonda ONeal, the county's telecommunications manager and Starke's supervisor. “She didn't have a mean bone in her body.”
Starke, 91, had decided to retire after 28 years on the job. She died of cancer June 29, a week before the retirement date she chose, friends and co-workers said Monday.
She was remembered as a gracious lady who never lost her composure, despite frequently coming into contact with those who weren't happy to be visiting the courthouse.
“Her love for people was genuine,” said Cleo Fields, who shined shoes alongside Starke for 14 years. “She taught me a lot about dealing with people.”
Carina Patterson, a retired county librarian, knew Starke for 20 years.
Patterson remembered her friend as sympathetic to the needs of others and someone who didn't take no for an answer.
“She would do anything in her power to help someone in need,” Patterson said. “But when you tried to do something for her she always tried to pay you for it.”
Starke was 62 when she went to work for the county in 1983. She was working part-time when she took a leave of absence a few weeks before her death to address health concerns.
“She had a dream of working with people from all walks of life and she got to do that,” said her son, Craig Starke.