Museum Info

Monday – Saturday:
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Noon – 5 p.m.

500 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Half-marathon runner, world traveler Mary Ann Clifford retiring from the Museum Store

By Rachel Drake, Eiteljorg marketing and communications intern

Mary Ann Clifford

If you’ve ever visited the Eiteljorg’s Frank and Katrina Basile Museum Store in the past 7 ¾ years, it’s likely you’ve met Mary Ann Clifford near the sales counter. Until her recent retirement, Mary Ann has been the retail operations coordinator for the museum store. Over the years at the Eiteljorg, she has helped sell one-of-a-kind jewelry and Native-made items. She also has handled all of the store’s back-office duties such as organizing purchase orders, processing invoices, and keeping track of inventory.

Mary Ann hopes to spend her retirement traveling, with a trip already planned. Never one for standing still, Mary Ann plans a journey to northern Spain with a friend to hike the historic Camino de Santiago, one of the world’s most famous trails. They will take the French route and plan to walk 15 miles a day for a total of 550 miles over six weeks. When they finish, Mary Ann plans to travel to London to visit her daughter Julia, her daughter’s husband and two grandchildren.

It’s not unusual for Mary Ann to keep so busy. Previously she has traveled to England, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, France, Egypt, Israel, and Italy. Even within the U.S., she has traveled, including visiting and hiking in numerous national parks with her adult son Brad.

“I had always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon,” Mary Ann explained. “My husband kept saying, ‘You better do it before you get too old to do it.’” Because of her husband’s fear of heights, her son agreed to hike the canyon with her instead. “We had so much fun we decided we would visit a national park every year.” Since then, Mary Ann and her son have hiked at Yosemite, Zion, Bryce Canyon and other national park in the West. With her newfound free time, post-retirement, Mary Ann hopes to visit new national parks to hike with her son, travel internationally, and also visit with family.

When not traveling, Mary Ann stays active by participating in half marathons each year. To date, she has run more than 20 half marathons, and she participates in the Mini Marathon each May and the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in November. Asked why she likes to run, Mary Ann replied that it’s just fun for her. “I think it’s a sense of accomplishment,” she added. “Plus, you know, I figure as long as I can, I should. As soon as I stop, I’ll become an old person,” she joked.

Having grown up on a farm in Shelbyville, Ind., Mary Ann said her “true career” was being a high school teacher. For more than 20 years, Mary Ann taught English to freshman, juniors and seniors. She and her husband moved frequently, so she spent around four to six years at a time teaching at each school, including the Independent School in Wichita, Kan., Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., and Grayslake High School in Grayslake, Ill.

Mary Ann took a break from teaching for a time when she and her husband opened and ran a stationery store called Bradley Paper (named after their son) in Wichita for five years until they decided to move back home to Indianapolis. She had considered returning to teaching until she saw an ad posting in 2011 on the Eiteljorg’s website. “What I do (at the Eiteljorg) is a portion of what I was doing when we owned our own retail store,” Mary Ann said. “I applied (to the museum store), was hired, and life has been good.”

“It has been a privilege working with Mary Ann,” said Robert Tate, director of merchandising at the Eiteljorg. “The keel is the spine the ship is built around. While a ship sails gracefully above the water, the hard-working and functional part below the water is the keel. It keeps the ship from being blown to the side and upright during a storm. Mary Ann has been my keel for six years! From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Mary Ann!” Robert said.

Mary Ann Clifford, left, and director of merchandising Robert Tate, right

Now after almost eight years, Mary Ann is finally saying goodbye to the museum store. “I guess people always say they’re going to miss the people they work with, and I will say that. We have a really good team right now: a lot of good people who work in the store.” Mary Ann plans to return to the museum to volunteer at major events, such as Indian Market and Festival in June. “It’s always good to keep learning new things and expanding what one does,” added Mary Ann, who is active on Instagram.

As for the Eiteljorg itself, Mary Ann said, “the Eiteljorg Museum has a great — this will sound corny, but – a great story to tell people. You know, (our motto is) ‘Telling Amazing Stories,’ and I agree we tell amazing stories. A lot of good people doing a lot of good things. I think it’s a great treasure for Indianapolis to have.”

Robert Tate added, “As we go through time weaving this tapestry we call life; there are many threads that run through our tapestry, some smooth, some simple and some threads that are colorless. A few threads are vibrant and full of texture that create the bold patterns in our tapestry. Mary Ann has been one of the vibrant and full-of-texture threads. A true standout in my life. Thank you for years of hard work together and enjoy your much-deserved retirement. Here’s to la dolce vita!” he said.


This article is a special online feature of Storyteller magazine.