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Senior Interview: Mary Lib Thornhill

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd is fortunate to welcome parishioners of all generations. We are particularly blessed with senior parishioners who have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, rich and interesting lives. Every few months we will hear from our senior members and learn about the joys of their family lives and careers, as well as the lessons, accomplishments, and challenges they have experienced.

Mary Lib Thornhill

Interviewed by Mary Ann Frishman

Mary Lib Thornhill celebrated her 90th birthday with family and friends in July 2016 and she is just as positive and enthusiastic as ever. She may move at a slower pace but she still lives life to its fullest.

Mary Lib was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana and grew up in Houston, Texas as the only child of Bess and Clifford Vick. “My dad was very keen on my getting a good education, and Mama was a wonderful Christian who guided my religious life,” she said. “Papa wouldn’t let me go to the Catholic Church, so we went to the Methodist church…the Baptist church, and then I fell in love with the Episcopal Church.”

Mary Lib loved school and naturally, Art was her favorite subject. She graduated from Lamar High School in Houston and attended Sweet Briar College before returning to Texas to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. She continued her studies throughout her life, studying Art History at Harvard, Spanish at the University of Mexico, and obtaining her teaching certificate from The University of Houston.

In her first job as an assistant to a Houston architect, she translated/spoke for her boss because he couldn’t speak Spanish. “I learned a lot in that first job,” she said. Afterwards, Mary Lib earned her teaching certificate and taught fifth grade, first at MacGregor Elementary and then at St. John’s.

“I think my greatest accomplishment was helping launch a pilot program in Texas’ major cities to train teachers how to teach children with dyslexia,” she explained. “It was such a need and success that they adopted and expanded that program statewide to better serve children, even to today.”

After her time as a teacher, she pursued her passion in a life-long career as an artist. She has traveled and studied under numerous artists, and taught art classes in Austin, Houston, and New Mexico. Her watercolors, pastels, and oils have been featured in shows and galleries across Texas and New Mexico. Her works hang in homes, libraries, colleges, and businesses across the country. In June 2016, she gathered with friends along the St. Geronimo River for a week, finishing four paintings and continuing a twenty-five-year tradition of “Helotes Art Camp.”

Mary Lib met and married somewhat later than most of her contemporaries. “I met Scoopy when Morin [Scott] had the opening of the Tidlands II Motel in Houston,” she recalls. “I had several dates with him, but when I called on a Monday to tell him that I had the flu and couldn’t come up for a party that weekend, he thought I was blowing him off. Beverly [Bell] set us up again a year later. That was a lucky day!”

Once back together, they were soon engaged. Mary Lib waited to introduce “Scoop” to her father until after they were engaged as, “he was not keen on my getting married, ever.”

Mary Lib and Scoop shared more than fifty years of life, love, laughter, family, friends, tennis, and travel together. They sailed in the Bahamas, floated the Grand Canyon, and summered in Port Aransas and New Mexico. “One of my most favorite trips was sailing through the Greek Isles with the Millers, Crosbys, and Reifslagers. Oh, we had fun!”

Mary Lib and Scoop have three children: Gabe, Elizabeth, and Mary Ann, and seven grandchildren: Curry, Mary Ann, Jack, Daniel, Mary Alex, Gabriel, and Travis.

She takes interest in what her grandchildren pursue and loves to hear their stories. “Each has given me a tremendous amount of joy! I like seeing their plays and performances and watching them compete, and I especially appreciate that they all love each other,” Mary Lib said.

Mary Lib became a member of Good Shepherd when she married 56 years ago. She taught Sunday school when the children were little and has been a greeter for years. Her advice is simple: “persevere in things you are passionate about, let unpleasant things roll off your shoulder, and be supportive of those you love.”

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