There's Something About Mary: A little chat with Mary Worth

Celebrity alumna Mary Worth was back on campus for Big Red Weekend, doing what she does best—asking personal questions, passing warm hors d’oeuvres and cool judgment, and dishing out sensible life-changing advice. Raised in fictional Jennings, Ohio (based on Granville), the two-dimensional Worth has been keeping her people skills honed in the fictional town of Santa Royale, Calif., in the fictional condo complex Charterstone, where pool parties and dog-walking provide regular opportunities for chance encounters, startling revelations, and reassuring aphorisms. Ms. Worth has been starring in one of America’s longest running newspaper soap operas, or ‘continuity strips,’ since the 1930s when writer Allen Saunders and illustrator Ken Ernst refurbished a dowdy Depression-era character named Apple Mary into the Mary Worth we know today. Her Denison education was first added to the story line in 1954, the year Allen Saunders’ daughter Penelope enrolled as a freshman. In 1974 the script writing was turned over to Allen’s son John, whose wife Alice Shelly also attended Denison. In the 1980s John Saunders had Mary time-travel back to Granville, her alma mater, and the great romance of her life. John “Jack” Worth was the college football star and later a successful Wall Street tycoon who left Mary widowed with comfortable means and plenty of free time. We don’t know their class year, but the couple married in Swasey Chapel on October 25, 1930. The wedding date is a rare point of specificity in Mary’s biography, but for those of us who want the logic of linear time, it’s better not to do the math on her age. It’s also better manners. Mary always has been and always will be 60-something, and as a comic strip character, that’s her privilege. She’s a wise woman and an optimist—and who among us couldn’t use a daily visit from someone who has our best interests in mind? Mary Worth took a few minutes to stroll down Chapel Walk and memory lane.

Denison Magazine: Mary, it’s great to see you back in Granville–let’s get a photo with your new Denison hoodie.

Mary Worth: Of course! You know, I’ll be able to wear this cardigan to our Charterstone pool parties! It gets chilly when the sun goes down, even in Santa Royale!

DM: It’s been a few years since your last reunion.

MW: Well, it’s a long flight from California, but I did sit next to a lovely couple and found I was able to help them think more constructively about their marriage. It’s a complicated world we live in now, where men and women both work outside the home! Who does the chores? Everyone needs to pitch in!

DM: That’s true. …

MW: Communication is key!

DM: How does it feel to see so many changes to the campus since your student days?

MW: Change is inevitable, but it also can be overwhelming. We need to keep up with the world around us, although as I recently told my dear friend Dr. Jeff Cory, whom I respect but will never marry, those Kindle machines are not for me. Oh, here’s Swasey Chapel! I wouldn’t know my alma mater without it!

DM: You and Jack Worth were married here. …

MW: A perfect October day, just like today! We were so young, so in love! President Shaw let us hold the reception here on Beth Eden lawn. There were hedges then.

DM: You and Jack were pinned at a Panhellenic dance. …

MW: You have done your homework! Yes, it was like a beautiful dream—right after the last dance, Jack took me out under the stars and asked me to wear his fraternity pin. We rowed on Ebaugh’s Pond, and he played his ukulele. I really fell for that boy. He was quite a catch for little Mary Ella Johnson of Jennings, Ohio!

DM: But Jack Worth had his competitors. I understand Rex Morgan carries a torch to this day. …

MW: Rex?! Oh, Rex! What exactly did he say? Is he here?

DM: And there was Alan Parker, who went on to law school and a successful career as a judge. …

MW: If there’s one thing Alan did well in college, it was judge. Now tell me what you know about Rex!

DM: Mary, you seem troubled. I can see it in your eyes.

MW: Yes. There’s something I haven’t told you. Something that happened in my past…

(The interview presented here is the original work of Denison Magazine and not that of King Features Syndicate or of Karen Moy, Mary Worth’s author.)

Published October 2012