Mesa woman marks her 106th birthday The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa woman marks her 106th birthday

Mesa woman marks her 106th birthday
Mesa
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TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF

A longtime Mesa resident turned 106 this weekend, but pandemic regulations muted her children’s celebration of her birthday to a degree.

Alice Marie Thome – known to her friends by her middle name – is now a resident of Friendship Village in Tempe, where, like many elder-care facilities, visits aren’t allowed.

Although her only daughter works at Friendship Village and was able to personally wish her happy birthday Sept. 25, Marie’s three sons could only send flowers and greetings.

Virtual communication was difficult, her son Walt Thome said, because his mom’s eyesight isn’t so good, making it difficult to see much on a cellphone or even a laptop screen.

Marie’s long life began in Port Washington, Ohio, as the eldest of three daughters of Wirt and Ruth Acker.

When she started first grade, her family moved to Mansfield, Ohio, where her father was a trust officer who worked at the new 12-story bank building.

“As a young girl Marie occasionally acted as a greeter, handing out pamphlets and other materials to people visiting the bank,” Walter said. 

But then the Great Depression struck in 1929, Marie’s parents moved to Harlingen, Texas, a bigger community that offered more activities for young people although near tragedy struck when their home was destroyed by a fire.

“Marie escaped the flames, snatching up her father’s violin which she carried safely outside,” Walter said. “Later, when asked why she grabbed the violin, she said it was the one thing she happened to see and could carry from the house.”

Ironically, that violin wound up in the hands of Walter’s daughter, an accomplished violinist who was born in 1998 – a century after the year Marie was born in.

Marie and her parents and sisters moved back to a small Ohio farming community where the biggest excitement was basketball. And with little else for young people there, Marie “grew very fond of the game,” her son said.

“She still likes the sport and has been an avid fan of the Phoenix Suns for years,” Walter said.

After Marie finished high school, Marie wanted to become a beautician and went to a beauty school in Rochester, New York, where she learned the Harper Method, named after a legendary entrepreneur named Martha Matilda Harper, who developed a network of salons with duplicated services that revolutionized the beauty salon industry.

Marie worked in beauty salons in Toledo, Chicago and Hollywood, and it was while in Chicago that she met and later married her salesman-husband Ed Thome.

They moved to Mesa in 1951, introduced to the city somewhat through her aunt, who six years earlier had bought Red Mountain Ranch.

Marie and Ed raised their family in a home they bought at Pepper Place and Alma School Road, probably for around $9,000 or $10,000, said Walter, since that was about the average cost of a home here back then.

“Mesa was a very small community then,” said Walter, whose siblings all live in the East Valley.

After settling in Mesa, Marie became a homemaker, active in her church and the Mesa chapter of the Salvation Army, for which she started a women’s auxiliary.

Widowed in 1995, “Marie enjoyed Bible study, ceramics, sewing and playing cards,” Walter said, “and upon moving to Friendship Village, she has stayed active playing Rummikub, Bingo and attending the many social functions.

She also learned how to shoot pool, he added, and “with some tutoring from her eldest son, she became rather proficient at sending the balls into the ‘little pockets,’ as she refers to them.”

Indeed, at age 90, he said, “she commented that had she known how much fun the game was, she would have taken it up when she was 80.” 

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