Mary Stierwalt and Brenda Mullen

Mary Stierwalt and Brenda Mullen behind the counter at The Family Shoe Store.

In 1962 Berns and Mary Stierwalt went into the shoe business, found that it was a good “fit” and then helped their hometown folks of Chariton and surrounding areas find quality shoes that fit just right. Now, after more than five decades – 57 years to be exact - The Family Shoe Store will be closing on Dec. 31. It is “fitting” that one last article be written honoring Mary Stierwalt and she and her husband’s contribution to the city of Chariton.

Mary Stout Stierwalt’s story began with her birth in the backseat of a car. It continued as she was raised on a farm in Lucas County and then graduated from Chariton High School in 1950. She went on to graduate from the Iowa State Teachers’ College (now UNI), teach in Spirit Lake and Newton, and get married to Berns Stierwalt in 1952.

Berns had worked in a shoe store while a teenager in Colorado, joined the Navy, and then worked in shoe stores in Newton and Marshalltown. Mary returned to Chariton in 1962 when her husband joined the Family Shoe group on the square. The store’s building, located at 120 N. Grand St., was built in 1894.

The building was initially occupied by Weiford’s Shoe Store until 1948 when The Family Shoe group bought it. In 1962 the Stierwalts purchased the business and began their 57 year adventure as owners of The Family Shoe Store. Not only did they sell quality shoes, but also printed t-shirts, customized school letter jackets and personalized leather belts. Sharing in the adventure were sons Kirk (now in Oklahoma) and Kyle (residing in Minnesota).

The shoe business didn’t consume all the Stierwalt’s time. They also invested in their children and their children’s interests. Berns coached Little League while Mary acted as an agent and treasurer for both the Little League and Babe Ruth. They encouraged their boys to show cattle for 4-H which led to son Kirk becoming one of the top cattle fitters in the U.S. and Canada.

Mary gave of herself to her community by serving on the Chariton City Council for 20 years and also becoming the first female mayor of Chariton, a position she held and loved for seven years.

Read the November 26, 2019 edition of the Chariton Leader for the rest of the story.

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