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Dinosaur National Monument museum building

Geologist Mary Jo Explores Dinosaur National Monument

When Mary Jo moved into a living community for older adults seven years ago, she felt a little out of her element. As a retired geologist, she was used to being around other scientific-minded individuals. But her new neighbors and acquaintances did not share the same interests or understand her passion.

That wasn’t the first time Mary Jo had encountered obstacles or challenges along her path. Instead of accepting her new circumstances for what they were, she decided to do something about it.

“I enjoy sharing the beauty of this planet,” she explained. So, Mary Jo began teaching classes about the wonders of earth science in her community. By using her natural gift for teaching and sharing her passion for the natural world, Mary Jo soon had plenty of people to converse with.

Her enthusiasm has continued to inspire those around her. Like the time Mary Jo stepped up to be the caretaker of the overgrown community garden. Soon, she had 20 other volunteers by her side, eager to learn about plants and help with gardening. Always looking for new ways to give back, she also started a group that makes intricate quilts to auction off in support of social causes like Doctors Without Borders.

Mary Jo is a true life-long learner. She remembers when the spark for science was lit inside her. “I was first introduced to geology as a college freshman, taking a rock identification course,” she explained. “Leaving the lab, I picked up a piece of gravel in the landscape, and, ‘Aha!’ I identified it as granite, and a geologist was born.”

That moment led Mary Jo to pursue higher education and learn everything she could, eventually leading her to a fulfilling career.

At age 73, her zest for accumulating and sharing knowledge has not changed. Barb, Mary Jo’s friend and wish nominator, commented, “Not only does Mary Jo volunteer and give back to the community, everything she learns she takes and shares with her community.”

When we heard Mary Jo’s story, we were thrilled to recognize her as the beacon of light she is to others and help her celebrate her passion for geology by granting her wish.

Accompanied by two older adults and three of her nieces, Mary Jo embarked on an adventure to a place steeped with geological history: Dinosaur National Monument on the border between Colorado and Utah.

Stepping onto the same lands where dinosaurs once roamed, Mary Jo and her companions were greeted by Rebecca, a professional paleontologist. They received a one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes tour of the grounds, facility, and countless fossils and specimens.

Watching her young nieces’ faces light up with excitement made the experience even sweeter. While exploring the grounds, they saw fantastic remains of dinosaurs embedded in the rocks. And Mary Jo even got to hold a Stegosaurus spike!

“The highlight of my wish was delving into geology with a fellow scientist!” Mary Jo said. “Being in that environment, discussing rocks, and sharing my knowledge made me incredibly happy.”

After her wish, Mary Jo was overwhelmed with emotion. She couldn’t wait to share her experience with her friends and neighbors: “It’s not over,” she exclaimed. “Rebecca is bringing fossils to the community in the fall!”

Mary Jo’s wish experience has helped keep the flame inside her glowing.

“I want all generations to know we are never too old to learn, share, and grow,” she said.

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