'Do What You Can, While You Can' Is Key To Good Life



Mary Lange, 78, will tell you she's lazy and doesn't do much anymore. But a recent Alaskan cruise, weekly church engagements, plans to go to Hawaii and a standing Friday night poker game with some longtime friends make it clear Lange still loves the outdoors, people and trying new things just as much as she ever did.

Lange, a resident of Payson since 1979, has had to slow down a bit in recent years due to her asthma. But she stays active and keeps a positive outlook on life with this simple philosophy: do what you can, while you can.


Mary Lange

As a life-long volunteer who never wanted to just stay home, she has taken that phrase to heart.

Lange, who grew up in Phoenix during the Great Depression, spent 26 years with the Gila County Sheriff's Posse. Shortly after moving to town in 1979, her sister, Dora Dawes, encouraged her to join, and Lange jumped at the chance to do the things she loves -- horseback riding and being outdoors.

"(It) must have been born in me; my mother was like that," Lange said. "The fresh air, the mountains are exhilarating."

Her favorite calls were for search and rescue efforts where she would get to ride her horse.

"I'm basically an outdoors person, always have been," she said.

As part of the posse, Lange went out looking for people during search and rescue efforts, guarded roadblocks during wildfires and, at one point, was in charge of the group's property control.

"It just makes you feel good to think that you're doing something worthwhile," she said. "(The Sheriff's Posse) needed the help and I had the time to do it."


Mary Lange was active in the Gila County Sheriff's Posse for 26 years, and remains an "on call" member.

Lange was so dedicated to the posse that once, when she had family in from out of town, she didn't even hesitate when she got an emergency call.

"I thought the posse's work was important," she said.

But the real draw of volunteering throughout her life was the human connection.

"It's just a natural thing; I like people," she said. "I guess it's satisfying to talk back and forth with someone. They're interested in you, you're interested in them and you learn something about them.

"When I agree to do something, I want to do it the best I can."

It wasn't all serious, though. Lange said she had a good time "showing off" with the posse in parades around the state, like the Payson Rodeo Parade and the Cave Creek Fiesta Days parade.

Lange was eventually forced to sell her horse about five years ago because she couldn't take care of it herself anymore.

"I didn't like (seeing the horse go)," she said. "I still feel bad about it, but it was the best thing for my horse."

Lange is still on call with the posse these days, but she's not as active as she used to be and she rarely gets calls. But what she really misses is the horseback riding and the outdoors -- her asthma keeps her indoors a lot more these days.

"To me, volunteering work is just as important as anything else," Lange said of why she got into volunteering to begin with. "I had to have something to do. I'm not a housekeeper."


Name: Mary Lange

Occupation: Retired

Employer: N/A

Age: 78

Birthplace: Watts, Calif.

Family: Son, Bill of Burlington, N.C.; daughters, Katheryn and Lee of Phoenix.

Personal motto: If you can do something about it, do it. If not, forget it.

Inspiration: My mother; she was a really good person. I always

wanted to be like her.

Greatest feat: Raising my three children.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Bowling.

Three words that describe me best: Active, helpful and social.

I don't want to brag, but ... I placed second in the statewide Senior Olympics last year in bowling.

Luxury defined: Not having to keep your house and having someone else to do it. Also, the freedom to do whatever you want when you want.

Dream vacation spot: Panama.

Why Payson? All my life I wanted to live up in the mountains and have a horse, but be close enough to the big city to go shopping. So one day my former husband and I quit our jobs and moved.

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