Mildred Hach Grimes

Honored by:Martha Isaacson
Brick location:G:13  map

Mildred Hach Grimes
Marshalltown, Iowa

This history of an Iowa Heroine is unusual because on first consideration one would not likely think of Mildred Hach Grimes as heroic. Heroes, after all, have traditionally been people who perform spectacular, almost superhuman feats -- the kind of actions that make the rest of us point our fingers, drop our jaws, and marvel, recognizing that these astonishing feats are beyond our more conventional human capabilities. Such heroes, of course, have no real staying power. They do their remarkable thing once, and from that moment forward people look at them and whisper "that’s the person who once...” But Mildred Grimes is a heroine of a different sort. Instead of once performing the spectacular, she continually performs the sensible, the necessary, and the wise. She is not one to rest on past accomplishments; instead each day brings for her new opportunities to express her constant and unflagging care for her family, her community, and her world. She has, in short, a perseverance that far outstrips the merely heroic.

Grimes’s love for the land, her level-headed good sense and her sheer persistence no doubt stem partly from her upbringing in rural Iowa. Born on Christmas day, in 1922, and raised on a small farm outside Green Mountain, she lived as a child through the struggles of the Great Depression. The times themselves called for perseverance and self-sacrifice -- an ethic summed up in a small hand-written sign hung over the paper towel dispenser in the Green Mountain school: "Why use two when one will do?” It is a humble emblem of conservation and responsibility, that stands in stark contrast to the reckless consumer-driven decades of the late twentieth century. Of course, the lesson of this little sign is preserved only because Grimes thought its message important enough to pass along to her own children. And she continues to live up to its simple wisdom -- even today she winces as she detects the wasteful self-indulgence of our "You deserve a break today!” consumer society.

The effort to disseminate the wisdom of conservation and civic responsibility has been the cornerstone of Grimes’s distinguished record of community service. Her resume bulges with positions she has held: she has been, for instance, the president of the Marshall County Conservation Board and treasurer of the Iowa Association of County Conservation Boards; she was elected to be a commissioner of the Marshall Soil Conservation District; she has been president of the Iowa State University Extension Advisory Council and director of the Iowa Tree Farm System. In addition to these land- use and conservation concerns, she has also been active in promoting and preserving the Arts in Iowa. With this aim she has served as president of the Central Iowa Art Association and the Marshall County Council for the Arts, as a board member of the Marshall County Historical Society and as secretary to the Iowa Humanities Board. This is an outstanding record in itself, but then to realize that she also worked professionally in the public schools -- as a librarian and a music teacher -- and raised four of her own children while playing host to some half dozen foreign exchange students...this makes an outstanding record truly extraordinary.

These are to be sure, remarkable accomplishments, but perhaps the most impressive of all is the exemplary use to which Grimes and her husband, Leonard, have put the family farm just west of Marshalltown, Iowa. Shortly after moving to the farm, in the early 1960’s, the Grimes began setting aside a few acres here and there for tree planting. The idea was not to produce lumber or Christmas trees for harvest; rather, it was to begin to replacesome of Iowa’s native forest lands, lands that have for over a century been cleared for agriculture. The tree planting has continued up to the present day (1995) and now -- after countless hours of planting and weeding, mowing, and pruning -- the Grimes’ farm has become a model of effective and responsible land use. Indeed, for their efforts, the Grimes earned awards as the Iowa Woodland Owners of the Year in 1982, and the farm was named the Iowa Tree Farm of the Year in 1985. What is more, the Grimes's have opened up their farm for conservation tours by local school children -- 500 per year. In yet another act of community-spirited generosity, Mildred and Leonard Grimes have given the farm to Marshall County which will establish it as a conservation park and nature center thus ensuring that its woodlands will be preserved and made available to the community at large.

There is nothing really spectacular, nothing seemingly superhuman in this record of public service and generosity. But perhaps in the final analysis the spectacular "superwoman” is not what really constitutes a heroine -- perhaps instead it is the steady energetic and selfless pursuit of one's ideals. In this capacity Mildred Hach Grimes is without parallel. We are all fortunate to live in a world that has been so tangibly enriched by her wisdom and her care.

Martha Frimes Isaacson and Dean Isaacson
 Megan Grimes Knutsen
 Paige Grimes Knutsen
Roger M. Grimes and Emily Bryan Frimes
 Tennessee Grimes
 Sophie Grimes
 Walker Girimes
Carrie Grimes Barr and Paul Barr
 Burgess Barr
 Barrett Barr
 Heidi Barr
L. Kyle Grimes and Deanna Calvert