Guy Foster has been bringing his three daughters to the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada since the oldest, now 14, was a year old. In that time, they have always been greeted by Mary Ann Weiss.
“She’s basically synonymous with the museum,” he said. “She’s a kind and wonderful person.”
The Foster family joined others in bidding farewell to Weiss, who is retiring after nearly 16 years on the job.
“It’s just unbelievable,” she said of the crowds of people gathered around to wish her well and send her off with gifts in a surprise going-away party at the museum. “I didn’t know this was going to happen. It’s a big surprise.”
Weiss approached the museum staff in June 1997 to teach an arts-and-crafts class. It was a Thursday, she recalls.
“On Friday morning, they gave me a key,” she said. “I’ve been here ever since.”
She said she has worked nearly every position, answering phones, acting as receptionist and doing all-around oversight of the museum. But her favorite part, she said, has been interacting with the children and their families.
“I have a love for the museum and for the kids that come in,” she said. “I’ve seen lots of children grow up.”
Lu Olsen, director of the Children’s Museum, said Weiss will be missed for her tender touch. Olsen said people who remember Weiss from their childhoods are now returning to the museum with their own children.
“She has been like a grandma to the kids’ kids,” she said. “That’s what we’re going to miss the most — that loving, caring grandma type.”
Sandy Hatchell, who was on the original board of directors for the Children’s Museum, said Weiss has been instrumental in the museum’s long-term success.
She said it was Weiss who suggested the museum add a gift shop.
“It was a really grand move,” Hatchell said. “It’s been a good financial support for the museum over the years.”
Weiss said she decided to leave to spend more time with her husband. But she doesn’t plan on slowing down.
She and her husband, who recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., with fellow World War II veterans through Honor Flights Nevada, have decided to volunteer with that organization. They would like to visit local elementary schools to talk about his experiences in the military.
And she plans to visit the museum frequently.
“I don’t think I could stay away,” she said.