Happy 100th birthday to Carmel gardener, volunteer


Commentary by Sally Rushmore

Marilyn Thomas is known in Carmel for her flowers, which can be seen from the library. Many people stop in to see them closer or ask about an especially showy bloom or tree.

Marilyn, my mother, has always had a green thumb. She joined with a few others to start Citizens for Green Space, a group that promoted the planting of trees in Carmel, helped launch the Carmel parks department, planted flowers in the various parks and taught elementary students about the importance of trees and learning to grow all types of plants.

CIC COM 0221 Marilyn Thomas 100

“My mother always told me to have something to keep my hands busy, and I’ve tried to do that,” Marilyn said.

Marilyn, who will turn 100 on Feb. 21, has lived in Carmel since 1953. She designed and oversaw the building of her house in 1957-58. She dedicated her house to the glory of God and had at least one Bible study meet there every week until the pandemic.

Carmel was a rural town with one elementary school and a junior-senior high school when Marilyn moved there. When the first junior high school was built, she formed the “Gray Ladies,” a group of mothers who took special training to staff the nurse’s office when the nurse, who served three buildings by then, was in another location.

Marilyn was a founding member of the Carmel Education Foundation and worked with that group for several years. She was also a founding member of the Carmel Clay Historical Society. She volunteered at Conner Prairie when the many crafts programs were just beginning. She enjoyed learning the various pioneer crafts and demonstrating them to classes of children and other groups.

She returned to college in 1969 to earn her bachelor’s degree in education before being tapped to teach third grade at the brand-new Mohawk Trails Elementary School. As she was earning her master’s degree, she moved to Carmel Elementary, where her children had attended. She remembers taking her second-grade classes to her front yard for a science/nature lesson and ice cream bars.

Although Marilyn has to have some help with her outdoor gardens, she still cares for many houseplants. She still has a computer and does a few things on it, including participating in a Bible study on Zoom and watching livestreamed church services. She is an avid reader, often reading six or seven books in a week! She likes to play games, especially Hand and Foot. She also still enjoys crafts, with rug hooking and basket-making being her favorites.

“I’ve been faithful to God, and he has blessed me with a great family and good friends,” Marilyn said.

Sally Rushmore is a Carmel resident, author and daughter of Marilyn Thomas.