A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Mary Thorsby finds fulfillment in helping others discover direction at the end of Life


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mary Thorsby has spunk. Spunk in a good way. Spunk with the same brand of energy and hope encompassed in the opening of the 1970s “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Even if that decade is well before your time, you are likely to have seen a clip of the main character throwing her hat into the air as the theme song assures, “You’re gonna make it after all.”

Again and again, Mary Thorsby has forged into new territory to see where she belongs in the world, and everywhere she goes, she has made things happen. Good things. Her website identifies her as a “community builder and connector,” and she excels in those roles without fail. Whatever the task, she brings a smile and a willingness to roll up her sleeves and pitch in to make things happen.

(image provided)

As a teenager, she and her family lived in Mayfield, where her father was plant manager at General Tire. From there she went to Stephens College in Missouri, majoring in Business with a minor in Journalism. After graduation, it was on to San Francisco to forge a successful career in marketing.

When she married a Kentuckian and moved to Paducah from the Bay Area, she started an online service, iList Paducah. As a result, organizations could post their events and activities in one convenient place, thus serving a public need for information about culture, recreation, education, and civic events.

From Paducah, it was on to University of Louisville’s MBA in Entrepreneurship, a program that seemed to suit Ms. Thorsby’s interest in strategy, outreach, and marketing communication. Next, it was back to San Francisco to see if it was time to pick up where she’d left off, but her aging mother in San Antonio, Texas, needed some help.

In her characteristic, spirited manner, Mary ran her business in both San Francisco and San Antonio until a unique opportunity came her way. In 2019, she was contracted to produce an important national conference for the Omega Home Network in San Antonio. This national membership organization promotes the development and expansion of community homes for dying people.

Part of the movement to improve the end-of-life experience for individuals and families, organizations in the network are community homes that are independent nonprofits, staffed by paid caregivers and volunteers.

Mary Thorsby was drawn to the concept of the Omega Home Network. In particular, the work of the San Antonio facility — ABODE Contemplative Care for the Dying – made a deep impression. Being a family caregiver inspired her to sort through her own life, and when the executive director position was available, she applied for the job and got it.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

“We’re home, not hospice,” is the way Mary describes it, explaining that they often work in cooperation with the hospice team.

The ABODE website explains that contemplative care offers an environment of compassionate presence. Mary Thorsby adds, “We are a place where, if you are by yourself or can’t take care of yourself, ABODE provides a home. Everyone should have an abode.”

In addition, “Every guest who comes to ABODE must be a patient of a hospice agency in the San Antonio area.”

ABODE donors, “have a heart for the topic,” according to Mary. “They want to know people are cared for.”

Still new on the job, Mary has learned so many things, including the truth of the time-worn adage that life is short. “It really is,” she said. “We postpone too much, telling ourselves, ‘The dream can wait another year.’ Time is precious.”

Helping others has helped Mary Thorsby find herself.

“Death doesn’t have to be something to fear. If anything, it’s a wonderful motivator that inspires us to dig deeply and recognize the kind of mark we’d like to leave on our world,” she explained.

“It’s a motivator that shows us that even though our time is limited here, we can live our lives fully, investing our talent and energy in ways that make things better for others – and, in return, better for ourselves. And we can leave our world a little bit better than when we first arrived. That’s a pretty nice way to go.”


Related Posts

Leave a Comment