Verna G. Mize

BETHESDA, Md. – Verna G. Mize, age 99, passed away Jan. 1, 2013, at Manor Care in Potomac, Md.

She was born in Houghton, on Apr 25, 1913, the daughter of the late John and Ann (Ghena) Grahek.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her loving husband, C.W.O. Alton McLeen Mize, U.S.M.C., who passed away Oct. 2, 1975; and a brother, John M. Grahek.

She was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Bethesda, Md.

Verna attended public schools and the College of St. Theresa in Winona, Minn.

Her federal career included service in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, between 1935 and 1980.

Verna Mize was a pioneer in the environmental movement. In 1967, she initiated, and for several years, led a successful national citizen effort to stop the pollution of Lake Superior by the Reserve Mining Company of Silver Bay, Minn., which was totally owned by the Armco and Republic Steel Corporations. Her “Save Lake Superior” campaign, as she called it, was a classic confrontation between citizens and powerful giants of industry. It brought the federal government, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and environmental groups into a lawsuit against Reserve. It was the longest, most costly, most bitterly fought environmental case in history. As a result, Reserve was forced to end its discharge. In his book, “The Great Pains States of America,” Neal R. Peirce wrote of Mrs. Mize’s campaign as “an amazing demonstration of woman and citizen power.”

Over the course of her campaign, Verna Mize testified before the Subcommittee on the Environment of the Senate Commerce Committee. She made numerous radio appeals and television appearances, including Ted Koppel’s “Nightline” on NBC.

She received the awards and honors. Verna was given the title, “First Lady of Lake Superior” by Michigan Governor William G. Milliken. She received an American Motors Corporation Conservation Award in 1976 “in recognition of exceptional service in the cause of conservation.” She also received a U.S. Department of Commerce bronze medal award for “superior federal service.” The people of her hometown, Houghton, honored her with a park dedicated in her name in 1981.

There will be no calling hours.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Chapel, 9200 Kentsdale Dr., Potomac, Md. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, at noon. Interment will be in private in Arlington Cemetery.