MARCUS, Iowa | When Mavis Diment died on July 18, 2015, the longtime Marcus resident was remembered as a woman who had an infectious smile, a whimsical sense of humor and a love of animals that extended far beyond her three cats, Callie, Dusty and Sunny.

More than two years after cancer claimed her life at age 68, she is also now being remembered as a humanitarian. 

In her will, Diment bequeathed more than $340,000 to two local nonprofit groups.

She left Floyd Valley Healthcare, in Le Mars, Iowa, more than $200,000 for upgrades in the hospital's emergency department.

"We had $500,000 budgeted for the project," Hospital Administrator Michael Donlin said. "Mavis' unexpected gift couldn't have come at a more fortuitous time. We were able to complete the renovations on time and on budget."

Diment also bequeathed more than $140,000 to the Siouxland Humane Society as part of the animal shelter's general operating fund.

"It's not unusual for the Humane Society to receive such gifts," executive director Jerry Dominicak said. "Still, it is very much appreciated."

Such random acts of generosity were common for Diment, according to Connie Hindman Johnson, Diment's cousin and one of the executors of her estate.

"Mavis lived modestly, but she was generous when it came to others," Hindman Johnson said.

This sense of charity came to Diment from her parents. Robert and Avis Diment taught their only child how important community was.

It was Diment's wonderful sense of humor that Hindman Johnson remembered most of all.

"She was witty," Hindman Johnson said. "Plus she had a good head on her shoulders."

Diment was born in Cherokee but spent part of her childhood in Sioux City, recalled Hindman Johnson, a former Sioux Cityan who is now living in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

"Even though I was three years younger than Mavis, we were always together."

The cousins remained close even after Diment's family moved to an acreage in Anthon, Iowa.

"Mavis loved farm life," Hindman Johnson said. "In the city, she had cats. In the country, she got to have ducks, geese, pigs, you name it."

Animals became an increasingly important aspect of Diment's life, especially after her parents died, less than a year apart, in the early 1970s.

"For Mavis, family meant everything," Hindman Johnson said. "Her family consisted mainly of her mom and dad. When they passed, she had no more immediate relatives."

However, Diment had at least a couple of generations of kids she considered close to being family.

"Mavis taught English and speech (for the Marcus-Meridan-Cleghorn School District)," Hindman Johnson said. "If you had freshman English, you had Mavis as your teacher."

After earning a master's degree in library science degree from Emporia State University, in Emporia, Kan., in 1991, Diment became a school librarian.

"That was Mavis' dream job," Hindman Johnson said. "She loved reading and she loved talking about books."

Indeed, Diment's home had shelves and shelves of her cherished books.

"Mavis had bookshelves devoted to all of her history books and all of her books of fiction," Hindman Johnson said.

Next to her kitchen, Diment kept all of her cookbooks. 

"Mavis loved to cook and people loved her food," Hindman Johnson said, remembering that baked goods and French onion soup were among her cousin's specialties.

When Diment was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, it wasn't her first bout with the disease.

"Mavis battled cancer back in the 1980s and it made her more appreciative of life," Hindman Johnson said. "Mavis regarded each day to be a gift and was proud to have beat cancer for a second time."

Sadly, the cancer returned in 2014.

"I used to kid Mavis because she was always stopped in the street by a banker who had been a former student of hers or by an insurance agent who was a former student of hers," Hindman Johnson said. "I'd say, 'You've probably taught everybody in Marcus, haven't you?'"

Diment would just smile back.

"Mavis kept up a correspondence with her former students long after they graduated and long after she had retired," Hindman Johnson said. "Her students were like family to her."

So were the furry, four-legged animals that Diment kept company at home.

"Mavis had a weakness for older cats," Hindman Johnson said. "That's why supporting (organizations like) the Siouxland Humane Society became so important."

Throughout her illness, Diment also appreciated the care she received at Floyd Valley.

"Mavis loved that a few of our nurses had been her former students," Floyd Valley Foundation Manager Amy Harnack said. "No matter where she went, Mavis was always bumping into students of hers."

Hindman Johnson still loves reminiscing about her cousin. 

"Mavis lived her life the way she wanted," Hindman Johnson said. "Mavis made a lot of friends along the way and she tried to make a difference in everything that she did."

The Siouxland Humane Society's Dominicak knows Diment's generosity will help his facilities immensely.

"There are a lot of nonprofits competing for the same dollar," he said. "I know we wouldn't be around if it wasn't for the generosity of people like Mavis."

Floyd Valley Healthcare's Donlin said the hospital's emergency department can easily see more than 7,000 patients over the course of a year.

"That's a big number for a rural hospital our size," he said.

Looking over the three new exam rooms and a more functional waiting room, Donlin said that Diment's gift -- as well as the gift of other individual benefactors -- will provide dividends for more years to come. 

Which is music to Hindman Johnson's ears.

"I think we wish our lives will have impact after we're gone," she said. "Mavis got her wish."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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