On September 24, 1951, Mary Joan (Smith) Tallman was born to Robert Burns Smith and Mary Joan (Conley) Smith in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Mary Jo was the first of six siblings, three brothers and two sisters soon followed. As the eldest, Mary Jo did everything first, of course, and also was treated as a bit of a princess as, unlike her siblings, she did not have to share a bedroom or a bathroom. Mary Jo’s explanation for her special accommodations was that before she was born, her parents thought it unlikely that they could have children, so they were overjoyed when Mary Jo arrived, thus the special treatment. This though didn’t deter sisters, Fran and Susie, from wanting Mary Jo’s things. According to them, Mary Jo refused to share clothing with her sisters, locking the clothing in a trunk. Fortunately for the youngsters, Susie was proficient at picking locks. Years later, while reminiscing about her childhood, Mary Jo admitted she did not remember having siblings until after she left for college, which explains a lot about Brooke’s recollection of Nolan.
Growing up in Bradford, Mary Jo played with the diverse group of kids on her street, attended Zippo family events, ice skated at the local ice rink, ate beef on weck, was on the cheerleading squad, and was a lifeguard during the summers. She attended Bradford Central Christian High School, graduating in 1969. Mary Jo then moved to Pittsburgh, PA to attend Carlow College where, we believe, she began her quest to be the most educated person in the family, or perhaps (and more likely) this began her love of learning and her desire to be in an educational environment. Mary Jo achieved a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a minor in Secondary Education. She decided to use her degree to teach middle school English in Bradford, which is where she met a very important friend, Jan Appuhn. While Mary Jo soon realized that she very much disliked teaching middle school, she very much enjoyed being involved in the education environment and the social aspect it brought. Mary Jo and Jan produced musical plays with their students, encouraged and judged speech competitions at the local high schools, enjoyed good books, exchanged recipes, and calculated where their next shopping trip would be.
In their spare time, Mary Jo and Jan played tennis on any surface they could find, skied at local resorts (which are nothing compared to the skiing she would do after moving to Colorado), and attempted to learn card games. Mary Jo’s competitive spirit came in handy after having children. Although she never played basketball, she would play two-on-two (Courtney and Brooke v Mary Jo and Doug). She taught Courtney and Brooke how to throw an elbow and they also quickly learned how to defend themselves from a mean elbow.
Eventually, Mary Jo decided to return to school herself. She pursued a masters of business administration at St. Bonaventure University in New York. While still teaching and pursuing her MBA, Jan and her husband, Bob, decided to set Mary Jo up on a blind date with one of Bob’s fraternity brothers from Colorado. One fateful evening, the Appuhns brought Doug Tallman to Bradford. Mary Jo and Doug talked for hours that first meeting. When he returned to Colorado, he told friends he’d finally found a woman with brains. Despite the many fraternity stories from Bob, they continued long distance dating with Mary Jo finishing her MBA, which included summer classes at the University of Denver.
Mary Jo and Doug were married in Bradford in May 1977. Mary Jo officially moved to the farm north of Brandon. She took over managing the business side of the farm, and cooking for the hired hands that lived at the house. She also quickly found lifelong friends in Lamar. These friends traveled together, skied together, played on sports teams together, attended Denver Bronco games together. Mary Jo soon became known for the parties that she threw at the farm. She loved to host parties, especially holiday parties. Invitations to her parties were coveted. Another one of Mary Jo and Doug’s favorite activities was to dance. Separately they are good dancers but together they were great dancers. They loved attending a wedding or the Smoky River Golf Ball to dance together. Mary Jo and Doug’s children were embarrassed by this when they were younger, but now, while none of them can lead or follow like their parents, they each enjoy dancing and also embarrassing their own children with their moves.
Late 1980 brought Mary Jo and Doug’s first daughter, Brooke Elizabeth. The story goes that Doug almost missed the birth of his first child but having learned from his mistake and a talking-to from MJ, he did not make that mistake again with the births of Courtney Joan in 1982 and Nolan Douglas in 1985.
Once all three kids were solidly entrenched in Cheyenne Wells schools, Mary Jo became aware that the school district was sorely missing a person to guide students out into the real world. She took on that role, and you guessed it, continued her education, attending Fort Hays University, achieving a master of science in counseling in 1999. This accomplishment was particularly difficult as she had a family to care for, and was also going through treatments for breast cancer. And, while she never did enjoy teaching middle school English, she loved being the counselor and helping students realize that they could do anything and go anywhere.
Mary Jo retired from Cheyenne Wells schools in 2020. With more time on her hands, she decided to concentrate on her golf game. She recently bought new clubs and began taking lessons. Mary Jo and Doug started spending more of their time hiking at their cabin in Rye, Colorado. When not finding new trails to hike, Mary Jo loved to sit on the porch, drink her coffee, read a book, and watch for wildlife. Mary Jo and Doug also enjoyed traveling to their townhouse in Texas where they would spend hours on the golf course and at the beach. And, of course, a great joy in any parent’s life, grandchildren. Mary Jo loved her grandchildren. She was often roped into babysitting. She just couldn’t say no to spending time with all the boys.
Recently, as fate would have it, Mary Jo got to see most of her siblings and the Appuhns. The Smith family reunited for a cousin’s beautiful wedding at the outer banks of North Carolina. As they had done twenty-five years previously, they rented a large house, all stayed together, and enjoyed reminiscing and reconnecting. Then, in September, Appuhns made their annual pilgrimage through Colorado. Mary Jo, Doug, Bob, and Jan enjoyed a dinner together in Burlington exchanging pictures of kids and grandkids and catching up on recent travels.
Throughout her life and in every place she lived, community involvement was important to Mary Jo. She served on a multitude of boards in the area including The C.W.H.S. Foundation, Cheyenne County Recreation District Board, Prairie View Health Resources Board, Judicial Performance Commission, Judicial Nominating Commission, and most recently she volunteered with Share the Spirit Foundation. She understood that to make a community better, being involved was necessary. She imparted that value in her children, encouraged Doug to donate his time and energy, and, of course, was always looking for new ways to contribute to this community outside of school.
A lot of people reached out since Mary Jo’s passing to offer their support, their condolences, and to explain just what she meant to them. This is a short list of what we’ve heard so far: classy, elegant, the rock of the family, the glue holding things together, the voice of reason, great hostess, kind, great listener, easy to talk to, always willing to help, always positive, great laugh, fun, great mentor, singer, dancer, friend, delightful, fashionable, amazing poise and warmth, witty, bright and fun, sweet, a second mother, sparkling, brilliant, beautiful, courageous, honest, empathetic, loving, caring, great cook, wonderful person, beautiful inside and out, impactful, the favorite child, fiercely independent, loyal. She was all of these things and more. Wife, Mother, Sister, Aunt, Grandmother, Friend. She is missed terribly. Her loss created a hole never to be filled but to be slowly patched by kind words and deeds and shared experiences and memories by the people in this family and community she created, loved, and supported.
A Funeral Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 at the Sacred Heart Church in Cheyenne Wells. Burial followed in the Plainview Cemetery in Brandon, Colorado. Memorial contributions can be made to the Mary Jo Tallman Memorial Fund in c/o ECB; Box 888; Cheyenne Wells, CO 80810. Friends and family can sign the guestbook and register online condolences at www.brownfuneraldirectors.com. Visitation and funeral services were entrusted to the care of the Brown Funeral Home.