Mary K. Shell, Bakersfield’s first female mayor, died of an undisclosed illness around 6 a.m. Thursday with her family and dogs by her side. She was 91.
Shell was born and raised in Bakersfield, spending much of her life serving the community.
“It’s where she grew up and she liked it because it had the small town effect,” Shell’s son, Geoff Hosking, said. “That was her number one place.”
Shell graduated from East High School before attending Bakersfield College.
A journalist by trade, at age 17 Shell worked for the Bakersfield Californian and later become a photojournalist-turned-editor of the News Bulletin, a semi-weekly newspaper serving Bakersfield.
In 1948 Shell married Richard Hosking. The two had three children: Geoffrey, Timothy and Meredith.
In 1969 Shell and Hosking divorced. She married Joe Shell in 1970, an assemblyman and one-time governors candidate.
Mary K. Shell went on to serve as mayor from 1981 to 1985, before serving three terms as fifth district Kern County supervisor from 1985 to 1997. She was the second woman to join the board.
“She poured her heart, she poured her time out to the under served, but she loved all people,” Bakersfield mayor Karen Goh said. “The advice that she gave me was very simple, but profound. Serve the people. Serve the people, and that’s what she did.”
The Mary K. Shell Mental Health Facility is named in her honor.
Shell is also known for founding the Beautiful Bakersfield committee and establishing the annual Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast.
“She was the type of person who would spend the time to make a difference,” Hosking said. “And if she saw somebody doing something that she didn’t feel was right, she would try to do something, about it and that was one of her real good qualities. She wouldn’t just stand still.”
Shell’s death comes less than a month after the death of former mayor Harvey Hall.