Mark Alan Böesser (1926–), Undergraduate. Born in Winston-Salem, NC, he was at Sewanee when he joined the V-12 Program. The V-12 Navy College Training Program was designed to supplement the force of commissioned officers in the United States Navy during World War II. Between July 1, 1943, and June 30, 1946, more than 125,000 men were enrolled in the V-12 program in 131 colleges and universities in the United States. V-12 participants were required to carry 17 credit hours and 9-1/2 hours of physical training each week. Study was year-round, and the number of terms for a trainee depended on his previous college background, if any, and his course of study. From the V-12 program, most of the Navy candidates went on to a four-month course at a reserve midshipmen's school (Mark instead went on a Patrol Craft Sweeper [PCS-1445] to the Aleutians), and the Marine candidates went to boot camp and then to the 12-week Officer Candidate Course at Quantico, Virginia. The curriculum was heavy on math and science for "regulars" (those entering college for the first time). Those students who already had some college credit, or "irregulars", were allowed to continue in their majors with the addition of courses in mathematics and science. After military service, Mark came back to UT in 1947 for a year of graduate work in physics. He married Mildred Post in 1948 in Palo Alto, CA and attended Virginia Theological Seminary becoming an Episcopal priest. He and his wife currently (2010) live in Juneau, Alaska. They have 4 daughters.
Mildred died in 2015, her obituary is below.
Mildred Post Böesser joined us in this world in Portland, Oregon on April 26th, 1925. She spent her early childhood in Camas, Washington, where her favorite memories were of family trips to the Oregon coast, exploring tidepools and taking long walks on the beach with her father, Edward. Mildred's family soon returned to their home state of California, making their home in Palo Alto. Her parents' summer cabin on Fallen Leaf Lake near Tahoe became one of the most loved places in her life. She hiked all over the high country, and her joy of walking through the beauty of the earth sustained Mildred's spirit throughout her 90 years.
In her late 60s, she climbed the Chilkoot Trail. Soon thereafter, Mildred retraced the steps of her birth family's favorite trail, her steady gait leading two daughters, a niece and granddaughter on a night climb of Mt. Tallac in California, their way lit by full moon. As they summited, the sun rose over Lake Tahoe far below, blending moonshadows on Mildred's back with a glow from within and all around her, and she knew heaven was on earth.
Mildred's mother Katharine graduated from Stanford, a feat in her era, and instilled the love of learning that led Mildred to first attend Whitman College, then by scholarship, to Vassar for a degree in Christian Education, later a masters of arts in teaching from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and on to lifelong learning through voracious reading.
A Danforth Fellowship brought Mildred to the University of Texas for interfaith work, where she met a fascinating physics major, Mark Boesser. After their first date, she wrote her mother that she had met the man she hoped to marry. When he gave her an engagement ring one night in the stillness of a campus Presbyterian Church, she wrote, "There was no limit to my joy!" That pure joy continued for 66 years of marriage, a full partnership in love of life and mission.
Mildred worked while Mark attended Episcopal seminary, and while they were serving at their first parish in North Carolina four daughters in five years determined her additional life work as mother extraordinaire! She was also a surrogate mother to countless people in the complex fabric of her life, and a role model and inspiration to many of courage and faith.
A founding mother of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in Juneau, active member of the Democratic Party and League of Women Voters, Mildred was tireless in her advocacy efforts for positive change in the world. Mildred's absolute passion for social justice, peace and equality led her to always speak her truth: writing letters to the editor, testifying to legislatures, city assemblies and school boards. Her strong, compassionate voice with its pure and simple message of love and acceptance was highly respected and heart-changing to many. When the US Supreme Court made its decision to legalize same sex marriage during Mildred's last week, she beamed and declared she knew then why her heart had kept beating another day!
Although Mildred was often appalled by what human-made institutions of churches have done or failed to do in the name of Jesus, she held that not even that could separate her from the love of God. She remembers the Presbyterian Young Peoples' Group as being especially formative during her high school years, especially the outdoor candlelight services on the shores of Lake Tahoe at church camp. Mildred wrote a powerful booklet for family of musings about her life-long Christianity, titled "Faith is a Commitment to a Relationship, Not an Assent to a Creed." In it she states, "My faith is not something I DO (though it motivates what I do), nor is it something I belong to, like a club. My faith is who I am. You cannot know or understand me apart from my faith."
Mildred chose to work for change from within the Episcopal Church alongside her partner Mark in their joint ministry of loving, helping, listening, healing, teaching, and sharing their joy of life, delight in the world, and love of God. This took them from Mt. Airy, North Carolina to League City, Texas, and in 1959 brought them to Holy Trinity church in Juneau, Alaska, where they served for 13 years. When their last daughter graduated from high school, Mark and Mildred went to Cambridge for a year of graduate and doctoral work, then returned to church work in Fairbanks and finally Wasilla. Each summer, they vacationed at their Lena Cove cabin in Juneau, the home of their hearts, where they finally retired in 1991. She continued right up to her final days in active engagement with her community and the world. Cherishing every moment of life with her daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and with everyone to whom she was "family by love," Mildred's life was full and blessed.
Mildred's final days were filled, as was her whole life, with music, her family playing and singing for hours at a time. Her passing in her home was pure peace, her hand in Mark's, daughters all at her bedside. When her breathing slowed and gently stopped at dawn, a wren outside her open window broke into lilting song and gave the concert of its tiny life to those left behind.
Mildred once shared a quote from a book her mother left her when she died, The Diary of an Old Soul by George MacDonald,
"Thy great deliverance is a greater thing
Than purest imagination can fore grasp;
A thing beyond all conscious hungering,
Beyond all hope that makes the poet sing.
It takes the clinging world, undoes its clasp,
Floats it afar upon a mighty sea,
And leaves it quiet with love and liberty and thee."
When Mildred's family spread her ashes at a well loved beach July 1st, two eagles soared close above the ridge. Her family's eyes were drawn to them by a daughter's comment to Mark, "They mate for life, you know." He chortled. Then all were silenced by the most amazing sight – the pair locked talons and tumbled down through the sky together, spinning and somersaulting, breaking apart at the last minute. One slowly banked towards the waterside gathering and flew straight to a point directly above them. Hovering, it circled tightly, gently lighting on a spruce. Whether Mildred might have been "raised up on eagle's wings," as one of her favorite hymns suggests, or if her spirit somehow sent the bird to bless her family on that magical afternoon of farewell, the family considered with delight! Whatever, they knew that Mildred is still with us, and always will be. As a favorite author, Barbara Brown Taylor, described in her book The Luminous Web, we are "part of a web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born….We live in the illusion that we are all separate 'I am's.' When the fog finally clears, we shall know there is only One."
Mildred Post Böesser died peacefully on June 29th, 2015. All are welcome to her service and/or reception at St. Brendan's Episcopal Church at 4207 Mendenhall Loop Road at 2:00 on Saturday, July 11th. Rather than flowers, Mildred preferred that donations be made to St. Brendan's or Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau, or to charities of each person's choice.