Mary Ann “MA” Grage, 87, passed away May 10, 2018, after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer at St. Gabriel's Community, Bismarck. Service for a celebration of life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 21, at Charity Lutheran Church, 120 Aspen Ave., Bismarck.
She was born Jan. 21, 1931, in Montevideo, Minn., to Magna (Ingstad) and Gustav Carlson. She was the youngest of five siblings.
She grew up in Aberdeen, S.D., and graduated from Northern State College with a bachelors degree in physical education and was crowned Gypsy Queen in 1952. She was married to Allan Grage in 1953. Together they raised four children.
She taught in several communities including Biloxi, Miss., Aberdeen, Benson, Minn., and Murdock, Minn. She spent 25 years at Wahpeton NDSCS where she taught and started the women's volleyball program and coached for 19 years. She is considered a "legend" and "First Lady of Volleyball" by her peers and players. She grew that program from the ground up to three national tournaments and an overall winning record of 456-188-11. She was committed to women's sports and worked tirelessly for equality in women's athletics during the Title IX era.
She was inducted into three hall of fames; One at Northern State College and two at NDSCS.
She was an avid athlete and was a pitcher in women's softball until the age of 77. She pitched her class A Corner Drug team to a state championship. Her only disappointment with sports was that she was born too early to participate in high school or college women's athletics. Instead, she played with the boys in neighborhood street sports.
Mary Ann touched the lives of so many people. She was known as MA because of her caring nature and inspiration to all who knew her. If there was ever an empty bedroom in their home, she filled it with a college student. She became a surrogate mother to all her students and players. Her life-long motto was, "Treat Others as You Would Want to be Treated."
She is preceded in death by her parents; all her siblings; and husband, Allan Grage.
She leaves behind her four children, Kris Todd-Reisnour (George Reisnour), Bismarck, Kurt Grage (Nancy) Pittsford, N.Y., Karla Sayler (John), Bismarck, and Kevin Grage (Marette), Brandon, S.D. She is also survived by 11 grandkids, Becky Todd-Edmundson (Morgan), Michelle Todd, Stephanie Eslinger (Greg), Danielle, Brittany and Shannon Grage, Lauren and Rachael Sayler, Briana, Spencer and Brooklyn Grage. She will be missed by nine great-grandkids, Asya, Ibrahim and Yusuf Jama, Abbigail and Weston Snyder, TJ Thompson, Easton, Grant and Heath Eslinger.
(Bismarck Funeral Home)