The Mary Hemmerly Hecker Memorial Sand Collection

The Mary Hemmerly Hecker Memorial Sand Collection was first conceived in February, 2010 as a way to remember a very special woman in the lives of many. Mary Hecker was born on April 4th, 1919 in Marion, Ohio to Ray and Ivaloo Hemmerly. She graduated from Harding High School in 1937 and then worked in the billing department of Universal Cooler Company in Marion and then H.C. Godman Company in Columbus, OH before joining the Women’s Army Air Corps in 1943. She served as a code breaker in New York City during World War II, which fit nicely with her affinity for puzzles. After the war, Mary returned to Marion and a job with Tecumseh Products. Eventually she returned to school at Ohio State University and used her G.I. Bill to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany. She would soon marry Harold “Rocky” Rockwell and begin travelling the United States photographing covered bridges and geologic formations. In 1975 – 1976, for a personal bicentennial project, they photographed over 100 covered bridges that were still standing at the time in the state of Ohio. Rocky passed away in 1977. Mary remarried a longtime friend, Kenneth Hecker, in 1978 and they continued to travel until Kenny’s death in 19861. Mary was the second daughter in a family with no boys, so her father, Ray Hemmerly, raised her as a tom boy. She grew up with a love of nature and astronomy which she shared with her entire family. Her passion for the outdoors, and geology of the American southwest in particular, even became a catalyst for one of her grand-nephews to pursue a PhD in geology.

As Mary travelled the southwest, she collected small vials of sand in particularly interesting places. Upon her death in 2006, these were passed on to her grand-nephew, who had also been collecting sand from places he had visited during his travels in the U.S. Navy. The collection of both sets of these sand samples had been particularly well documented, including location (the majority with latitude and longitude [WGS-84]), date of collection, color, coarseness and mineral content. In 2008 these samples were collated and displayed as a coherent collection by Mary’s grand-nephew who then decided to have custom display cases built to house the collection. In 2010 it occurred to him that this would make a well deserved, appropriate memorial for “Auntie”. The Mary Hemmerly Hecker Memorial Sand Collection was dedicated in April, 2011 and now contains well over 500 sand samples from around the world displayed in non- reactive, polyethylene containers that hold approximately 50 milliliters of sand in a custom display case at the current address of Mary’s grand-nephew, Dave Decker. The collection also contains extra samples from many of these areas, to be used for research purposes. Requests can be made by contacting Mr. Decker at and submitting a research proposal documenting the intended use of the requested samples (see “About the Sand Collection” page for more details).


1Hemmerly Genealogy, Descendants of Conrad & Margaret Siegler Hemmerly, 1829 – 1997, Trella H. Romine