Mary M. Paulson

Published 6:37 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Mary Myrtle (Sells, Gilbert) Paulson, 84, passed away on September 4, 2023 due to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Mary was born on June 23, 1939 to Ben and Lelia (Loveless) Sells. They lived in Wells, MN and she was born in Albert Lea, MN. She grew up on a farm in Freeborn with her two sisters, Ann and Sara, and was actively involved in the farming operation.

Mary M. Paulson

In 1956, at her sister Ann’s wedding, Mary met E.A. Gilbert and after knowing each other for two years, seeing each other for a total of six weeks, and exchanging 100 letters, they married on August 16, 1958 in Freeborn, MN. Together, they had four children and lived between Missouri and Minnesota. Tragically, E.A. passed away while they were living in Madelia, MN and he was serving as the high school principal. As a newly single parent at the age of 30, Mary returned to school to obtain her teaching degree with a special education endorsement and taught for six years in Madelia. During that time, while she was learning square dancing with her children, Mary met Sheldon Paulson. They married on December 29, 1977 and she moved with her family to his farm in Hanska, MN. Together they had two more children and Mary stayed home for six years before returning to the classroom. Mary taught special education in Hanska and New Ulm for 19 additional years before retiring. During that time, she sadly lost her second husband and also persevered through a fuel oil spill, fire, and tornado. She said if one more thing happened, she’d move off the farm, but as bad things tend to happen in threes, she was able to spend many more years living on the Paulson family farm.

At the age of 6, Mary started sewing, which became a lifelong beloved hobby that demonstrated her skill, creativity, attention to detail, and love. She sewed hundreds of items over the years, including two of her daughters’ wedding dresses. Ever a procrastinator, she was also known to spend many late nights completing projects at the last possible minute. Many of those projects were for the annual Syttende Mai celebration in Hanska, which was an important community connection in her life. Mary found joy in building connections and finding community everywhere she was. In every school she worked at, she was noted and remembered for her laugh. Mary’s laugh was like a modern day find your phone feature and her children could often locate her chatting with friends in school or the store by listening for her laugh. Mary also enjoyed gardening and working outside for the majority of her life. At family gatherings, she could also often be found around the table either playing cards or puzzling. Family, however, will be Mary’s greatest legacy. She loved her entire family dearly and fervently fostered connections between relatives. She researched and recorded family genealogy and attended or planned every family reunion she could.

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Throughout her life, Mary shared many tidbits of wisdom with her friends and family, here are some that have helped her through difficult times:

• If you’re not laughing, you’re crying.

• If I can’t laugh at myself, forget it.

• It’s okay to talk to yourself, just so long as you don’t answer back.

• I can always say I tried.

Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Ben and Lelia Sells; spouses, E.A. Gilbert and Sheldon Paulson; sisters, Ann and Sara; and many other aunts, uncles, and cousins. She is survived by her children, Bill, Becky (Ernie), Mark (Kat), Nita, Brian (Jackie), Sarah (Jason); six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at Zion Lutheran Church in Hanska MN on September 16,2023, with a visitation at 10:00 am followed by funeral at 11:00 am. Interment will be at a later date with family. In lieu of flowers, Mary requests donations be made to the Freeborn or Zion Cemeteries for maintenance and care.

The Minnesota Valley Funeral Homes of New Ulm are assisting the family with arrangements at this time.

To leave an online condolence for her family, or sign the guestbook, go to: