Marie Lanorah Thomas, M.A. passed away on January 17th, 2020. Marie (or Rie as she liked to be called) was 72 years old at the time of her passing. She retained a youthful and light spirit throughout her life. Born in Dearborn and proud of her native Michigan roots, she preferred the sunshine of Celebration, Florida and the Magic Kingdom castle to the cold winters.
She cherished her family and friends dearly and is survived by her daughter Danielle Marie Miller, son Ryan Thomas Jones, grandson Broderick Miller, her brothers Larry Thomas and Woodie H. Thomas, III, Ph.D., P.A., sister-in-law and best friend Joyce Thomas, nieces and nephews including Lisa Marie Thomas, Woodie Thomas, Bryan Thomas, and Brittany Thomas, several great nieces and nephews, and extended family.
Marie dedicated her life towards teaching children for more than 35 years at public, private and charter schools. She found her calling as a young woman in her 20s. This was after a three-year adventure in Germany living at Ramstein Air Force base. In Europe, in addition to teaching she worked as a tour guide to American soldiers. She went to Eastern Michigan University and the University of Maryland overseas and later earned her master’s degree in Special Education. She particularly enjoyed her years teaching Kindergarteners and working with children who had special needs. As she might add, “Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times.”
She believed in love, creativity, education, adventure, and the miracle of God. She loved the magic of Disney and fairytales with a fondness for Mickey Mouse, Elsa from Frozen, and Star Wars characters. Her truly saw the world through the eyes of children, especially her beloved grandson and great nieces. Her favorite times at Disney World included the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, Run Disney events, Baseball Spring Training, the Flower and Garden Festival, and during the Christmas holiday.
She particularly loved getting to know the members of her community, Disney cast members, and new visitors to the parks. As an informal guide and expert on all things Disney, this allowed her to return to her roots and beloved years as a tour guide in Europe and to continue to teach about a favorite subject. No one was ever remained a stranger long in her presence.
As a genealogist, she took great care in recording everyone’s personal histories and traveled extensively including to Ireland to trace her roots with the Flynn and Flaherty families and connections to Galway, County Mayo (Mac Laughlin), Kilkenny (Swift) and Limerick. She loved sharing her discoveries and adventures with friends and family on social media.
She had a thirst always to know more. She wrote: “Perhaps they did not leave during the famine but before when England was taking the lands and ending their lives in the 1840's! […] It appears that when Great Grandfather Martin Flaherty went to Red Lodge, Montana from Avoca, Penn that he brought 4 daughters and no wife. They were miners. Grandmother Marie, married Grandfather Emmett Flynn in Red Lodge, Montana. He was at that time a typesetter for a newspaper. After Marie and Emmett married, they went to Great Falls, Montana where he worked on the newspaper. He became one of the first linotype operators in America and then moved to California.”
Marie’s commitment to education extended to life-long learning as in recent years she attended courses at Stetson University, trained to be an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida and was a member of Celebration’s Thriving-in-Place volunteer group for seniors. She was also a lifelong member of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in education. As she wrote in 2017: “What I know now at ‘27’ years old is that you need to learn something new every day. Teaching is not about age; it's about passion and the love to encourage each student that I meet!”
Knowing Marie, she is quickly getting to know the many interesting historical figures in the great Magic Kingdom in the sky. Her family hopes she enjoys meeting her new neighbors at the historic Rose Hill Cemetery. There will be a small burial service for her at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Kissimmee, Florida on Thursday, January 24 at 2:30pm. It is located at 1615 Old Boggy Creek Rd, Kissimmee, FL 34744.
One cannot just do one service to honor someone like our beloved “Princess Rie.” There will be a remembrance service and gathering for friends, family, and the community later in the Springtime. This was her favorite time of year as she loved to celebrate her April birthday that coincided with Earthday. She called it her “Earthday Birthday!” Her family will post an update once the logistics information is confirmed.
Instead of donations to flowers, the family asks that if you would like to pay tribute to Marie, please consider donating to your local children’s charity, taking a walk in nature, or finding your own way to lead you best life enjoying a special moment as a way to honor her and the importance of lifelong learning.
As she liked to say – “Go as far as you can see; and from there, you can see farther. Life is to enjoy Now! C’est la vie!”