The Kistners

Mary N. Straw (Kistner)

Mary N. Straw was born in 1917 in Detroit. Her father died early in Mary’s life and, since her widowed mother worked around the city as a live-in practical nurse, it was decided that Mary should move in with her grandparents in Steuben County, Indiana, a rural area in the northern part of the state, where she lived until returning to Michigan to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Western State Teacher’s College in Kalamazoo.

Mary’s primary interest was art, including gardening and working first as a skilled weaver at her loom and later in the creation of collages. She was also a philanthropist for the arts in Gwinnett County.

David H. Kistner

David H. Kistner was born in 1918 in Grant, New Mexico. David's Father died, in 1923, from tuberculosis at the Silver City Sanatorium (now a historical site). Sometime around 1925 David’s Mother, Florence Boulware, married Dr. Earl Bullock who owned the sanatorium where David’s father was a patient and Florence worked. Between 1927 and 1929, Dr. Bullock either sold or shut down his sanatorium, and took Florence with her three children, Kathryn, David and his twin brother, Byron, to Detroit, Dr. Bullock's hometown. Shortly after moving to Detroit Byron died in a drowning accident.

David was a farmer and cattleman. He was also a philanthropist and public servant serving many hours promoting better business practices, especially in farming, the environment and conservation of natural resources nationwide.

The Couple

Having spent pleasant summers at his uncle Byron Kistner’s home in Atlanta, after graduating from Grosse Pointe High School in 1937, David decided to live in Atlanta. He had enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta and, after his freshman year, took a summer job on a Great Lakes cruise ship at Mackinac Island in Michigan where he met Mary working on the same ship. David proposed marriage to Mary at the end of that summer, but Mary told him that he would have to wait until she finished her degree before she would marry him.

With marriage in the future David took a job as a teller at the Fulton National Bank in Atlanta. David's Uncle Byron tried hard to convince his nephew he'd be better off marrying a Southern Belle and he even attempted to break up the romance by intercepting letters between them.

Having completed college Mary moved to Atlanta and they were married in 1940. By the time Mary was ready to move to Georgia, the situation with Byron had become so tense that David decided it would be better to bypass his uncle and have the wedding at his grandparents’ home in Dalton, Georgia.

After the wedding, David rented a room for the two of them in a relative's house in Atlanta. When Byron's wife, Laurie died suddenly, Byron called David and demanded that he and Mary move in with him. In the end, to please David, Mary set her feelings aside, and the two of them moved into Byron's house. Byron had never once spoken to her since she married his nephew.

When David was called to serve in the U S Army from 1943 until 1946, Mary did not want to live under Byron's roof alone, being well aware he had tried to stop David from marrying her. Because of constantly being intimidated by his hostility and stern silence, Mary temporarily moved into a boarding house with several girl friends.

To help with household expenses, a very attractive Mary was immediately hired at Rich’s Department Store to promote a line of cosmetics for teenagers. Rich’s, having lost many of its male employees to military service, and impressed with Mary’s work ethic, asked her to be their first female designer of window displays and merchandising. She was later promoted to Coordinator for all the Home Furnishings departments at Rich’s.

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Thank you to Hank Ohme, Suzy Downing, Lori Posner, Terry Dempsey,
Dale Higdon & Carol Hassell for all our spectacular pictures.