Obituaries » Marvonne Thiessen
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July 27, 2019
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Marvonne Thiessen transitioned to Spirit in her Norfolk home Saturday, July 27, 2019, from complications due to cancer. She was 89 years old. Born in Kansas, the youngest of three children, she follows her parents and brothers, all of whom have preceded her into Spirit. Marvonne was known for her love of children and education, her love of family, her skills as a counselor, and her creative and insightful mind, always carefully forming her words before speaking. Her obituary is dedicated to all homemakers whose lives were just as important and significant as those who are recognized for their public contributions.
As a young woman, Marvonne studied theology graduating from Phillips University in the early 1950s and later attended a few graduate classes at Syracuse University where she met her soon to be husband Walter Thiessen. Marvonne and Walt married in 1956 and settled down in Schenectady, where Walt worked for General Electric while Marvonne cared for the house and family of three children, Walt, Pamela (“PJ”), and Mark. She was known for encouraging everyone to go after their dreams no matter how crazy or nonconformist or risky. Encouraged by the women’s movement of the 1960’s, Marvonne even went after her own dream of working with children; she studied Education and Early Childhood Development, obtaining a master’s degree at Russell Sage College.
Upon graduation Marvonne received several job offers to teach in public schools. She considered the offers, but her children were teenagers at the time, and the winds of change blew through the household interrupting her plans. During that time GE closed down the division her husband worked in and rehired him in another division in another state. Instead of pursuing a teaching career in New York, Marvonne created her own business in her new home, as a counselor for young parents in their parenting skills. When someone at GE submitted her husband’s name for the position of director within GE’s Elfun Society, she just intuitively knew that he would be chosen out of all the 2000 or so nationwide applicants and proved it with a piece of gold jewelry inscribed with the Elfun Society logo months before he was chosen for that position.
Marvonne always supported her husband in every venture he devised for his career or for family recreation. In the mid-60s Marvonne and Walt organized the family’s greatest 5-week adventure ever, camping all across the entire northern United States to California and back home again through much of the Southwest and Midwest, enjoying dozens of popular tourist spots along the way. They shared adventures with a twister in the Badlands, a wild and crazy raft ride down the roaring Snake River, a raging Rocky Mountain bull that chased Walt away from an apple tree, a thieving Yosemite bear, and a sleepy wild skunk who cuddled to sleep with Marvonne on her sleeping bag.
For Marvonne’s oldest son Walt, she always encouraged his love of music with piano and guitar lessons, as well as his love of baseball, golf, chess, debate, radio, and computers. Today Walt DJs his own online radio show and dramatic podcast. Walt has been a computer administrator and entrepreneur working out of his home for the past three decades including helping his wife and swing-dancing partner Louise with her gardening and landscaping business.
Marvonne helped her daughter Pamela (“PJ”) overcome her excessive shyness. Marvonne became a girl scout leader to encourage PJ to join. She encouraged PJ to enter the YMCA gymnastics program, taking horseback riding lessons, and study tap and jazz dance. When PJ became a cheerleader for a local church team, Marvonne purchased all the fabric and sewed all the uniforms for every single cheerleader on the team. Like many of the women in Marvonne’s family who became published playwrights, poets, and novelists, she encouraged PJ in her writing dreams. PJ studied theatre and acting, and pursued community and semi-professional theatre all her adult life while working conventional jobs. PJ has produced two of her own musicals with more on the way, and shyness no longer describes PJ, quite the opposite.
For Marvonne’s youngest son Mark, she found a way to encourage his unconventional creative modes of learning by enrolling him in an alternative-learning elementary school. She encouraged his love of drumming, painting, bicycling, and technical designing, especially cars, and structures. Mark became an electrical and software engineer and now works for NASA writing launch control software. He also enjoys dancing, playing the ukulele, and singing in the choir and praise team (just like his dad did). Mark and his wife June, who has a doctorate in Biostatistics and teaches college courses, live in Florida.
Marvonne and her husband retired in the 1980s and moved to a lake house they built in Virginia. While living at the lake, Marvonne pursued her dream to write a fictional book about one of her ancestors, a homemaker and mother of 12 in early Colonial America, a story to perhaps rival Little House on the Prairie. Her daughter intends to get that book published post-mortem.
During their years at the lake house, Marvonne felt most blessed to have her daughter and baby granddaughter live with them a few years. Later Marvonne and her husband moved into a brand new independent senior living residence, in Lynchburg, VA. After several wonderful years in the Summit, her beloved Walt passed into Spirit in 2008.
A few years later Marvonne’s children helped her buy a house by the Chesapeake Bay where her daughter and a friend cared for her full-time until her death. Just before her death Marvonne was blessed to attend the wedding of her granddaughter Mickey as she married Robert, the wonderful young man, so like Marvonne’s own husband, whom Marvonne always hoped for her only grandchild.
Marvonne is survived by her three children, two daughters-in-law, her granddaughter and her new grandson by marriage, one brother-in-law, now age 103, one sister-in-law now age 91, and multiple cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews, great grand-nieces and great grand-nephews all across our nation from sea to shining sea. Marvonne leaves a wonderful legacy of courage, acceptance and love.
We believe Marvonne and her true love Walt are dancing to Stardust beyond the veil in reunited bliss.
A memorial service will be held for Marvonne Thiessen on Saturday, August 24, 2019, 2:30 p.m., at First Christian Church, 3109 Rivermont Ave., Lynchburg, VA. Visit https://www.fcclynchburg.org/ .
Tharp Funeral Home & Crematorium, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.
Also, a Celebration of Life will be held for her, Tuesday, August 27, 2019, 7:30 p.m., at The Memorial Spiritualist Church, 307 W. 37th Street, Norfolk, VA. Visit https://www.memorialspiritualistchurch.org/.
Tharp Funeral Home & Crematorium, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.