Mary 'Kay' Sells, 93, was influential in global Girl Scouting

Friday, September 13, 2013 | 6:19 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Mary Kathryn "Kay" Sells, 93, formerly of Columbia, died Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

She was born Jan. 7, 1920, the oldest daughter of eight children, to Vera Mae Bandy Jacobs and Reuben Turner Jacobs. She grew up on a farm in Columbia.

She completed elementary and high school in Columbia. She graduated from Christian College, now Columbia College, with an associate degree and from MU with a bachelor's degree in education.

She married O.V. Sells on June 2, 1941.

"My sisters and I admire our mother, a farm girl from Missouri, for pursuing a college degree in a time and place where many women did not," her son, Scott Sells, said in a speech for his mother's memorial.

His mother furthered her education at the University of Virginia. She taught school in Hannibal; Madrid, Spain; and Arlington, Va.

"Girl Scouting was very important in Mother’s life," Scott Sells said in the speech. "She served the Girl Scouts for over 70 years in numerous capacities and was awarded the Girl Scout’s Juliette Low World Friendship Medal for enriching the global understanding of Girl Scouting. She volunteered her service in various capacities from troop leader to trainer to camp director to international spokesperson. Thirty-five years ago, Mother led a troop to Sri Lanka for a nine-week scouting trip."

Mrs. Sells started American Girl Scouting in Spain in 1957. She promoted interaction between the Scouting programs of Spain and the United States. In 1979, Girl Scouts of the United States presented her with the Juliette Low award.

"My mother found time to continue her teaching career, raise a family and volunteer her time with Girl Scouts and many other civic organizations as she tirelessly helped, inspired and improved many lives and communities around the world," Scott Sells said in the speech.

In 1978, Columbia College honored Mrs. Sells with the Distinguished Alumni Award for her volunteer activities. She was active in the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, United Way and the League of Women Voters. She served three terms as president of the independent living facility where she resided in Fort Walton Beach.

Mrs. Sells is survived by her husband of 72 years, O.V. Sells; her daughters, Sharon Meginnis of Chapel Hill, N.C., Judy Altshuler and her husband, Jerry, of Prescott, Ariz., and Vicki Schuler and her husband, Charlie, of Navarre, Fla.; her son, Scott Sells and his wife, Kim, of Fort Walton Beach; her nine grandchildren; and her five great-grandchildren.

A celebration will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Westwood Retirement Resort in Fort Walton Beach.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made in Mrs. Sells' honor to Columbia College, Attn: Science Project, 1001 Rogers St., Columbia MO 65216.

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