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Bemidji, girlhood home of Mary Welsh Hemingway, honors native daughter

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Mary Welsh Hemingway – a journalist, war correspondent and the fourth and last wife of writer Ernest Hemingway – was honored Sunday in Bedmidji, the town where she was raised.

The Bemidji Pioneer said April 5, 2015, was declared Mary Welsh Hemingway Day.

“I think it’s important to remember our history,” Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht told the newspaper. “A community is really built on its history and the things that went before it."

Mary Welsh's childhood

Mary Welsh was born in Walker, Minnesota in 1908. She moved to Bemidji prior to kindergarten and reportedly had a tomboy girlhood in the north woods.

She graduated from Bemidji High School in 1926 and attended Bemidji teachers college for a year before moving to Chicago to study journalism at Northwestern University. She went on to work as a correspondent during World War II, writing for the Chicago Daily News, Time and Life magazines, and the London Daily Express.

A story about her in Eves magazine detailed her meeting of Hemingway in France. Both were married at the time; they divorced their spouses and married in a civil ceremony in Cuba in 1946. They spent their married early married life there and in Key West, traveled in Africa and reportedly once visited Bemidji together. They were married at the time that Hemingway earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, by that time they were living in Idaho.

Mary's career

Mary Welsh Hemingway's 537-page 1976 autobiography, "How It Was," detailed her career as a journalist and her life with Hemingway.

“Mary was charming, witty, exciting, a good wife, excellent fisherman, a fair wingshot, strong swimmer, good cook, good judge of wine, an excellent gardener and amateur astronomer, a student of art, and spoke Swahili, French and Italian,” wrote Nita Frank-Eagle, in 2009, printed in a January 2010 newsletter from the Cass County Historical Society and Museum in Walker.

In 2011, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's death, The Independent revisited the circumstances of his death at his home in Idaho, reporting that Mary, who discovered him, initially "told the media that it was an unfortunate accident, that Ernest had been cleaning one of his guns when it accidentally went off."

The story went on to say that "it took Mary Welsh Hemingway several months to admit that her husband's death was suicide."

Mary Welsh Hemingway died in New York in 1986 at age 78. She is buried in Ketchum, next to Hemingway.

Bemidji playwright Catie Belleveau is writing a play about Mary Welsh Hemingway.

“She was that solid woman who kept his lists, organized his life and edited his work. She did all those things. She was his faithful companion,” Belleveau said. “Why should Bemidji care? She was an amazing journalist in her own right.”

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