Life Member - Tribute - Mary Lula Laslie Grodner
January 5, 1935 to September 5, 2012
Mary Lula Laslie Grodner, Ph.D.
Dr. Mary Grodner was a pioneer entomologist and pesticide safety educator. Her contributions as a woman entomologist began in her early years at Louisiana State University, where she was hired as one of the first female agricultural specialists at the LSU AgCenter. Working in a profession dominated by men was tough, and she handled it well. Her director described her as a “test run for female specialists.” He noted recently that she had passed this test with flying colors because she fit in with every crowd with ease and grace.
Having grown up on a tobacco plantation, Mary was quite knowledgeable of agriculture. Her formal training in biological sciences also helped, having earned her advanced degrees from Louisiana State University in zoology and entomology. There was no man who could do better in working with pesticide applicators. Mary’s people skills were legendary. Although some of those Extension audiences in the remote parishes of Louisiana were challenging, Mary earned their respect and friendship. Her work with the Louisiana applicator associations illustrates a lasting friendship with those groups. She was known affectionately for her brilliance, creativity, candor, and unique gift of telling entertaining stories that taught a lesson.
Mary was a founder of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators. Having hosted the first AAPSE meeting in New Orleans in 1993, she was elected to lead the organization in 1995. Her leadership solidified AAPSE’s place as an international organization. Once again, her charm and wit captured people’s attention. She helped AAPSE gain the respect of both industry and government during her years as its president. Her unique qualities as a gifted speaker and her ability to relate to people brought much attention to AAPSE. She was a class act. When Dr. Grodner came to the podium, people listened.
From a personal perspective, Mary was the mother of two wonderful sons and a dedicated and loving wife. Her family life revealed a well-rounded person; she was not only a larger-than-life figure professionally, but a very successful mother, grandmother, and spouse. Mary was a leader in her community and church. She was an important part of the Louisiana State University Tiger nation and the Louisiana pest management community. She served her university and Cooperative Extension for over 35 years.
An important part of Mary’s legacy is that she was loved and admired by her family and friends. In writing this biography, we asked the members of AAPSE to tell how they felt about Dr. Grodner. Their feedback reflects much of what is stated here and adds an affection that is undeniable. Everyone loved Mary, and our organization was affected by her retirement. We missed her, and many of us kept in touch with her. Her retirement left a large void greatly magnified by her passing. There was never a closer friend or more respected colleague.
At some point the sadness and shock of her loss will fade. When that happens we should focus on Mary’s legacy and our fantastic memories of this remarkable lady. Mary seemed to have left each of us with a unique story to remember her by. She left AAPSE with direction, strength, and inspiration. Her example teaches us how to do our work well and how to conduct our lives.
On behalf of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators, we thank you, Mary, for all you have given us. May God value your counsel and talents in the afterlife. I am sure there are many expired pesticide applicators and colleagues who rejoiced to see you coming. May they enjoy you as much as we did over the many years you graced us with your friendship.
M. J. Weaver, AAPSE President-Elect, September 12, 2012, Charter (founding) member
Mary Lula Laslie Grodner, PhD, 77, a long time resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana departed this life on September 5, 2012. Visitation will be at 11:00 am on Tuesday, September 11, at the William B. Reilly Memorial University United Methodist Church. A service will be held in Mary's memory at 1:00 pm also at the William B. Reilly Memorial University United Methodist Church. She will be laid to rest thereafter at Resthaven Gardens of Memory. Mary was born in her childhood home on the family shade tobacco plantation, Oakdale, near Attapulgus, Georgia on January 5, 1935. She was the third daughter born into her family, which would grow to include three more sisters and three brothers. It was here that she learned the values that she carried throughout her life: love of family, love of God, respect for all of God's creation, and the willingness to serve others. She attended primary and secondary schools in Decatur County, Georgia and Gadsden County, Florida. Mary graduated from Wesleyan College, in Macon, Georgia in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She received her Masters of Science Degree in Zoology from LSU in 1957. While working on her Masters degree, Mary met her husband of 53 years, Dr. Robert M. (Bob) Grodner, who was working on his PhD at the time. They were married on August 22, 1959. Before the birth of her two sons, she taught at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio from 1958-1960. When her husband became a Professor in the Food Science Department at LSU in 1963, Mary and the family moved permanently to Baton Rouge. While raising her sons, she then received her PhD in Entomology in 1973, also from LSU. Mary next continued her academic career as an Assistant Professor of Zoology at LSU. She moved from that position to serve as a Pesticide Safety Specialist for the LSU Agricultural Center as well as the long time Pesticide Coordinator for the State of Louisiana. During her service with the LSU Agricultural Center, Mary authored numerous articles that have been widely published. Being a sought after speaker, she also made hundreds of presentations on the national and state level regarding pesticide labeling and usage, and other technical matters. She was also a member of numerous professional and scientific honor organizations, including Sigma Xi, Gamma Sigma Delta, the Entomological Society of America, the Association of Women in Science, and the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators. Mary retired with over 35 years of service to LSU. During this time, she was also a very active member of her church, serving as financial committee chairperson and as chairperson of the administrative board of University United Methodist Church. Mary also served in various capacities with the Chapel Choir, the MYF, the 2 By 2 Sunday School Class and the JOY Sunday School Class. Mary was a life member of the United Methodist Women. She was also a long time member, past president and past member of the board of directors of the LSU Kiwanis Club. Additionally, Mary was a founding member and past president of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators. Over her long and distinguished career, Mary received numerous state and national awards. Those include awards from Gamma Sigma Delta, Louisiana Association of County Agents, American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, National Association of County Agents, American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators, the LSU Agricultural Center, Louisiana Pest Control Management and the Louisiana Mosquito Control Association. One of her favorite awards was the Distinguished Achievement in a Profession award from Wesleyan College, awarded to her in 1993. She is survived by her husband of 53 years, Dr. Robert Maynard (Bob) Grodner. They were devoted parents of their two sons, R. Marshall Grodner, a resident of Baton Rouge, and Mark W. Grodner, a resident of Cooper City, Florida, both of whom survive her. She was also Mimi to her five grandchildren, Eulalie T. (Tess) Grodner, Eugenia Berry (Jeannie) Grodner, Robert M. (Max) Grodner, Jr., Gabrielle V. (Gabby) Grodner and Isabella Laslie (Bella) Grodner, all of whom additionally survive her. She is also survived her loving siblings and several of their spouses, Martha Jean Woodward, and her husband, Sylvester Woodward, of Quincy, Florida, Beulah Brinson of Monticello, Florida, Eleanor Griffin and her husband, Dr. Taylor W. Griffin, Jr. of Deland, Florida, Harriet Reynolds and her husband, Dr. John D. Reynolds, III of Augusta, Georgia, John Laslie of Quincy, Florida and Berry Laslie, of Tallahassee, Florida as well has her brother-in-law, G. Mayo Livingston, Jr. and his wife Carolyn of Bainbridge, Georgia. She was preceded in death by her father Joseph T. Laslie, her mother, Annie Berry Laslie, her sister, Joan Laslie Livingston, her brother, Lt. Joseph T. Laslie, Jr., U.S.M.C. and her brother-in-law, E. Bailey Brinson of Monticello, Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Mary's name to the Annie Berry and Joseph Laslie Scholarship Fund at Wesleyan College, 4760 Forsyth Road, Macon, Georgia 31210.
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