Remembering Mary Ellen Shelton Brucker with Thanks

The Mill Valley Historical Society was the fortunate beneficiary of a generous donation from Mary Ellen Shelton Brucker, who died in 2021.  We interviewed Mrs. Brucker’s children in February 2024.  Here’s her story:

Mary Ellen grew up first in the Philippines, where her father represented a San Francisco export/import company.  When Mary Ellen was 12, her mother died and the family moved back to the United States, where her father remarried and settled in Mill Valley.   Mary Ellen spent her teenage years with her four siblings in the family home at 105 Molino.  (For the rest of her life, she remembered navigating its steep driveway in the family car!)  As a whole, she remembered Mill Valley most fondly for the happy, normal, stable family life they had here, a staple of the strong community bonds we still enjoy today.  

Mary Ellen loved attending Tamalpais High School and came back for reunions frequently.  Upon graduation from Tam in 1943, Mary Ellen went to Stanford, working on the Stanford Daily newspaper. Her best friend from Tam, Beth Ashley, who wrote for the Marin IJ for 60 years as the grande dame of Marin journalism, went to Stanford with her and they remained close.  After getting her degree, Mary Ellen worked in San Francisco for several years before moving to Connecticut in 1953 to work for the Hartford Current.  Later, she went to work for the Voice of America in Washington, DC, writing articles on Hungary and Korea for airing overseas.   Mary Ellen was grateful for the good education she received in Mill Valley and at Stanford, which gave her the desire to see the world, learn about foreign affairs, and explore other cultures.  

While on American Youth Hostels trip in Europe, Mary Ellen met her husband and after they married, they moved to St. Louis where they raised their two children, Katherine and Ed Brucker.   Katherine and Ed grew up with their mother telling them fond stories of her life in Mill Valley.   Although they only visited Mill Valley once growing up, they still have cousins in Marin.  A postcard of Mill Valley that Katherine sent her mother while working in San Francisco remained proudly posted on the family refrigerator in St. Louis for many years.  

Another memory they have is their mother singing the 1970 “hit” song “Mill Valley”.    Ed also recalls Mary Ellen’s enjoyment of the satirical novel “The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin” which was reported in 25 chapters by the San Francisco Chronicle and Pacific Sun.

Ed described another of his mother’s Mill Valley influences on the family was culinary, bringing a California style of cooking to family meals in St. Louis that was fresh, filled with variety, and ethnically influenced.

Katherine said that Mary Ellen’s Mill Valley education, which took her to Stanford and beyond, contributed much of her professional success in life, which women of her generation rarely pursued.  Mary Ellen had a distinctly California style of pushing boundaries, striving for change, and exploring the world around her. 

Mary Ellen also believed in giving back, generously donating a third of her estate to charitable organizations that she had close connections with or valued their work.   MVHS is honored to have been one of those organizations and will endeavor to make the best use of her gift for future generations in Mill Valley.

Katherine Brucker is a Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US Dept. of State, currently serving as Deputy of the US Mission to OSCE in Vienna, Austria.  Her brother Ed Brucker lives in St. Louis.