Mary Alice Sessler has lived in Muscatine her whole life. In fact, she still lives in the same house she grew up in. Though her husband, Richard, has not lived here quite as long (he grew up near Wilton and Durant and lived in the Quad Cities for a time) one would hardly know it. In the forty-three years since he married Mary Alice after meeting her at a concert at the Muscatine Art Center, the pair has contributed to the community in many ways and intertwined their history with the history of the city.
A career art teacher, Mary Alice has spent a combined forty-eight years (forty-three years with Muscatine Community School District and five years with Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School) helping elementary and middle school children discover their artistic talents. “I love seeing the children’s creativity. I get ideas from them!” she shared.
Along with her teaching, which she still continues to do part time, Mary Alice has actively participated in many area organizations, including the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center and Muscatine County Arts Council, to promote public art throughout the region.
Also an artist at heart, Richard has brought creativity to the community through his music. From offering piano lessons out of his home since he first moved here, to teaching vocal music for more that twenty-five years at Muscatine Community College and Muscatine’s public schools, and serving as a school accompanist by request, Richard has helped many musicians find their voices and share their music with the world. In particular, he enjoys, “working with all ages of students . . . [from] first graders through adults,” and the many different challenges it presents. “I love the variety,” he added.
An active member of the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra and its board, Richard continues to keep Muscatine’s rich musical tradition alive to this day.
Along with their passion for the arts, Mary Alice and Richard also enjoy traveling both within the country, to see their children and five-year-old twin grandsons, and internationally. In particular, they love exploring different kinds of architecture and learning about the cultures that created it.
For the last three years, the two have gotten to share this interest with middle school students at Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School by teaching a short class on the subject. As a culminating experience, the couple takes their students on a fieldtrip around Muscatine to see some of its most architecturally significant homes and buildings.
At the end of all their journeys though, the Sesslers love returning to Muscatine and feel proud to call it their home. As Richard explained, “it’s small enough that you can get from one area to another in five minutes [but] I think there’s good diversity in town too.” Muscatine, in turn, greatly benefits from all the care and hard work the two have put into helping their students succeed and has a richer art community because of their dedication.