Mary Ellen Thorvig died at St.Mary’s-Essentia Health hospital in Duluth on January 31, 2021 after a short illness. Mary was born on December 1, 1944 in Sandstone, Minnesota to John and Anna Marks. She grew up as the middle of nine children on the family farm on Lake Thirteen. She went to Lakeview School until eighth grade and graduated from Sandstone High School in 1962. She then went on to UMD where she got her bachelor’s degree in social work. Mary’s love of learning brought her to Washington University in St. Louis, MO where she obtained her master’s degree in social work. Upon returning home from graduate school, the love of her life, Chris proposed and they got married on August 22, 1970.
In her role as a social worker, Mary worked many places, including Pine County, the Five County Mental Health Center, and the Moose Lake Correctional Facility. She also ran a daycare business and was involved with Montessori and Sandbox nursery school. Living up to the “Professional College Student’’ label she gave herself, she went back to school when her own children were in college to become a chaplain. She enjoyed her time at St. Scholastica and St. Mary’s, where the nuns often referred to her as “Sister Mary.” They encouraged her to join the order but Mary said she didn’t know how Chris would feel about that. She served as a chaplain for both the hospital and Pine County Sheriff’s Department.
Throughout her life, Mary pursued her many interests. Chris joked she would need to come back in another life as a carpenter ant to get everything done she wanted. She went to auctioneering school to fulfill her desire to learn to call. She and Chris traveled extensively, though she always said she never liked the coming and the going, but she was fine once she was at her destination. Although Mary did not work at the grocery store in a traditional role, she always said her job was to “Spread Cheer and Goodwill.”
Mary was involved extensively in her community. She served on several boards, including the Pine County DAC (now PHASE), Kettle Kinship, Sandstone Public Library, hospital board, Old School Arts Center (OSAC), and Dollars for Scholars. She was a member of The Sandstone History & Art Center, Grace Lutheran Church, Founding Member of The Quarry Lions, Sandstone Garden Club, and Eastern Star. She was also a Master Gardener and thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent in her many gardens. Mary was an avid reader and always had a book in hand. She would stay up late reading well into the night, both as a child and an adult.
Mary was an incredibly kind and generous person, always helping others and concerned for their well-being. She made friends wherever she was, and truly did spread joy to all she encountered. Though she was affectionately known as “Mother Mary” to many, her favorite name to be called was “Grandma.”
She is preceded in death by her parents, John and Anna Marks; father-in-law and mother-in-law Louis & Esther Thorvig; brothers-in-law Dale Nelson and Jack Ottem; brother Dwight Marks; and husband Chris. She is survived by her children, Craig (Kristee) Thorvig of Sandstone; Caroline Thorvig (Mark Walters) of Grand Rapids; AFS sons Max Vazzoler of Italy; Kostya Andreev and family of Hollywood, CA, formerly of Minsk, Belarus; her grandchildren, Cassidee and Tyler Thorvig of Sandstone and Dagan and Gunnar Larson of Grand Rapids; sisters Madelyn (Harold) Wimmer of Pine City, Jo Marks Nelson of Sandstone, Patricia (Richard) Goodwill of Leander, TX, Shirley (Leo) Irlbeck of Hinckley, Janice (Dave) LaPolice of Stewartville, MN; brothers, David Marks of Sandstone and Merlyn Marks (Deb) of Burnsville, MN; sisters-in-law Merry Marks of Hinckley, MN; Nancy (Arvid) Brekke of Esko, MN, and Vonnie Ottem of St. Cloud, MN; and many nieces, nephews and dear friends. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
Planting of a tree or donations to Old School Arts Center, Sandstone History Center, or Sandstone Public Library are requested in lieu of flowers. Blessed be her memory. Celebration of life to follow in spring/summer of 2021.