On March 20, Mary-Fred Bausman-Watkins not only got a chance to say goodbye to her friends, but more than 200 of them, in a line snaking out the church door and down the block, also patiently waited to tell her how much she'd meant to them.
"Some people hadn't been in church for more than two years" due to the pandemic, Peter Watkins, Mary-Fred's husband, said of that gathering at St. Clement's Episcopal Church in St. Paul. "People came to basically say goodbye to her. She was also kind of giving them her blessing, letting them know 'This is what I see in you.'"
Mary Frederika (Mary-Fred) Bausman-Watkins, 59, died May 8 after seven years of "living bravely and authentically" with cancer, her husband said. The woman who insisted on saying a few words to everyone in that line that day was many things, Watkins said. A German language teacher. A school founder. A world traveler. A lover of beauty. A fighter for social justice.
What she wasn't, friends say, was tolerant of exaggeration. It's not needed when talking about Bausman-Watkins' life, said Silke Möller, another early parent at Twin Cities German Immersion School.
"She got things done," Möller said.
That first year, 2005-06, enrollment was just 42 students. But the school grew steadily and now has 600 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
For those first few years, Bausman-Watkins was co-director of the school. She was the details person.
Chris Weimholt also was a TCGIS parent in those early days.
"She was the executive brain of the school," she said. "I remember there were maybe five of us at the Merriam Park Library and Mary-Fred was giving a presentation on the school she was envisioning. It was a novel vision to start a bilingual school and I was looking for that for my kids. Mary-Fred was so clear on what steps needed to be done."
Bausman-Watkins later left to teach in Prior Lake before returning to St. Paul to teach at Central High School. Her students called her "Frau Bau."
Bausman-Watkins was born in Frankfurt, Germany, her husband said. She spent the first nine years of her life in Moscow before the fall of the Soviet Union. Her father worked for the Associated Press there. She grew up in Connecticut.
Peter and Mary-Fred met while working at Covenant House in New York City, a shelter for homeless teenagers. They were given room and board and paid $12 a week, Watkins said.
"I wasn't ready for the destitution we experienced there," Watkins said. "It made us aware of poverty and issues around race and social justice. We were just giving Band-Aids. We saw that and it really shaped her."
Bausman-Watkins was active in her church and participated in pilgrimages, said the Rev. Joy Caires, rector at St. Clement's. After the killings of Philando Castile and George Floyd, she became even more strident in the fight against racism.
"She saw in her church and in her passion for justice, the possibility for more," Caires wrote in an e-mail. "More love. More justice. More hope. More dignity. More. More. For the love of God, beauty, and all humanity."
Bausman-Watkins was preceded in death by her parents and a sister. She is survived by her husband, Peter; children, Andrew, Christopher, and Paul; and brothers, Charlie and John.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on June 4 at St. Clement's Episcopal Church, 901 Portland Av., St. Paul.