MA was born on February 26, 1937 in New Cumberland, PA to Charles Wesley Gemmill and Mildred Kuntzelman Gemmill; she was the youngest of three sisters. MA graduated from New Cumberland High School in 1955. In 1959 she received a B.S. from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, with highest distinction, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. At Penn State she was co-Captain of the Eastern Champion Debate/Forensic Team and a decorated public speaker. She was awarded a Rotary Foundation Fellowship which enabled her to attend the University of Auckland, Auckland New Zealand, where she earned an M.A., in 1962 and travel extensively on a discovery and speaking tour which included stops in Fiji, Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and Hawaii. Upon returning to the USA, MA married the love of her life and best friend, Robert (Bob) Kauffman.
Shortly thereafter, MA began her 33 year career as an educator, following in the footsteps of her beloved father. She taught mathematics in Mechanicsburg PA, Wayne MI and Wellesley MA, but she served longest at Marshfield High School, Marshfield MA. Her passion for teaching and commitment to her students was unsurpassed. She arrived to her classroom at the crack of dawn and stayed late each day to offer extra help to any student who wanted it. She tutored students in her home in the evenings and on weekends. Most nights, she would correct problem sets, tests and quizzes until 11pm. She could have excelled in any profession but teaching was her calling; she believed cultivating “a love for learning” was the best way to positively impact the greatest number of people. She also felt a deep connection to her fellow teachers.
MA shared that same devotion for her family. Bob and MA were happily married for 58 years, raised two boys, Stephen and Jeffrey, and had four grandchildren. The educator in her was ever-present in her time with her grandkids. Whether taking them to museums, visiting civil war battlefields, explaining why certain trees lose their leaves, or driving an hour in the dead of winter to help them review algebraic equations, she was vital to their lives and instilled in them the value of an education.
MA was a resident of Marshfield, Duxbury and Plymouth and established life-long friendships in each community. She was an active member of the First Parish Church of Duxbury for nearly 50 years and served on countless committees and boards.
MA was a close confidante and trusted advisor to many. She was a perfectionist, meticulous in every way. Her research, preparation and organization left everyone amazed. Her moral compass never wavered. Her debate training taught her to truly know an issue meant mastering both sides of the argument. She was strong-willed but could be swayed by a cogent position. Her energy was boundless and her mind never faltered with age. She loved music, theater and the visual arts. She had a clandestine wit that would catch you by surprise. Reflecting back on her life she stated, “I was a strong woman in a world not quite ready.” She was respected, loved and will be missed.
Mary Ann is survived by her sister June, son Stephen, son Jeffrey and his spouse Meg, and her grandchildren Charlie, Kate, Julia and Amanda.