Once again the hand of Mary Ida Merrill Thomson is quietly at work. Mary Ida’s family and friends from the many facets of her life have come together – virtually – to remember our mutual friend, to reconnect with long-separated colleagues, to meet her family, and to remember this grand woman whose influence was as wide as it was powerful. Mary Ida died last weekend – her spirit lives on in those who knew and loved her. As one admirer observed (online) – “Mary Ida is smiling at the collaborative effort.”
Mary Ida Thomson died a quiet death at an assisted living residence that was her last, but not her real, home. Troubled by dementia she could not be at peace. Friends who visited missed the chance to absorb the wisdom of the quiet force that was Mary Ida.
We are sharing memories now – of Mary Ida who was a prime, if backstage, mover in shaping the Minnesota Association of Library Friends, a vibrant organization that now involves hundreds of bibliophiles in making their local library thrive.
Others remember Mary Ida the staunch and steady supporter of the Girl Scouts of America, long-time member of the Board of the St. Croix Valley Girl Scouts.
Friends recall the countless hours Mary Ida spent counting – with impeccable accuracy – the Sunday collection at her church, a house of faith that forgot her when she was unable to serve and needed their support.
There was Mary Ida who loved to tell stories – stories she shared on Fridays when she was the indispensable “Girl Friday” at Metronet – faithfully covering the front desk in exchange for Friends of the Library using the organization’s address and meeting space. She told stories of her early life in Mankato, of her years working at the bank where she somehow got involved with an “assertive training” program during which she met her friend Linda, of her rides in the executive car with her husband who was a RR executive, of the latest reads her friend Jeanne Fischer was recommending, of the foibles of her beloved Mr Pedro, a formidable feline who had to shift gears when Mary Ida moved out of her gracious Roseville home.
No one knows the number or nature of all the boards and support groups on which Mary Ida served – People, Inc., The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, the board of the St. Croix Valley Girl Scouts (now Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Rivers), the Minnesota Association of Library Friends, the Charities Review Council, the Minnesota Church Foundation and the Harriet Tubman Center – no doubt there others – the list expands with every email message.
What friends and family know today is that there is a blizzard of emails choking the communications channels as an ever-growing circle of “Friends of Mary Ida” share memories of an extraordinary woman whose gentle hand and wise counsel touched so many lives.
Later there will be a memorial service at First Congregational Church in Southeast Minneapolis, a church where Mary Ida’s grandfather once ministered – she had great stories about those early days, too. For now those who knew Mary Ida are welcome to join in what Mary Ida’s nephew has dubbed a “virtual memorial service,” a joyful digital celebration of a beautiful life well lived by a woman who has enriched this community in untold and unheralded ways.