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Merrilyn's Story

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Merrilyn Lo Thornburg Gronau, 80, of Greensburg, passed away Monday, January 1, 2018 at the home of her daughter in Morton Grove, Illinois.
She was born to Clara Loretta (Pearce) Thornburg and Merritt C Thornburg the morning of March 26, 1937 at Charles Major Hospital in Shelbyville, Indiana. Her parents are both deceased.
She began first grade in Peddle, Mississippi after attending preschools in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Kindergarten in Columbus, Georgia. In third grade she attended school in Augusta, GA and both West and East Schools in Greensburg, IN. After graduation from Greensburg High School in 1955, she attended Ball State University and Purdue University on the Lella R. Gaddis Scholarship, awarded for achievement in 4-H. She later took classes at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California and Ivy Tech College in Greensburg, IN. She became a stewardess for American Airlines after graduating from their flight academy, Dec. 16, 1958.
She is survived by her daughter, Gretchen Gronau Wooldridge and her husband Michael Erwin Wooldridge of Morton Grove, IL., two grandsons Merritt Erwin Wooldridge and Calvin Michael Wooldridge, sisters Carolyn (Ward) Sparks of Indian Harbour Beach FL., and Sally (Terry) Grenz of Bismarck, ND, and a brother Ted C (Pat) Thornburg of Greensburg.
Her early working life consisted of being a catering waitress for Dorothy Kammerling, life guard and swim instructor at Lake McCoy and the Greensburg YMCA and gift wrapper and sales person for Minear's Department Store.
After marriage she worked in the Chicago City Ticket Office for American Airlines then in the travel office of McDonnell-Douglas Missile and Space Systems Division at Huntington Beach, CA.
Later she was an international bank/vault teller, accounts receivable bookkeeper, automotive service writer and computer/work order office person. Before retirement, Merrilyn was an Amway distributor and was an active Mary Kay Beauty Consultant for 34 years.
As a cancer survivor, she served 14 years as the coordinator for the Reach to Recovery program for the American Cancer Society in Decatur County. She lobbied for Indiana State funding several years and served as the Indiana ACS Representative to Washington, D.C. on two separate occasions. She sought federal research funds for a cancer cure.
She was a member of The First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Greensburg, IN, where she sang in the choir, was Superintendent of the Primary Department, an adult leader for Chi Rho, a deaconess on the church board and member of The Golden Rule Sunday school class.
Merrilyn was a 50+ year member of Lois Chapter #147, Order of the Eastern Star, and a member of the Lone Tree Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. She was chairman for youth and chaplain. She sang in the chorus of Oklahoma as a member of Tree County Players and was a member of the Arts & Cultural Council of Decatur County. She served as a museum docent while a member of the Decatur County Historical Society. She participated in several programs as a member of the Adult Center. Bridge playing was her pleasure.
She served on the local election board for over 30 years as clerk, judge and inspector. She was an active member of the Decatur County Solid Waste Management Advisory Council.
Over the years she was a member of The Kiwi Club Chapters in Chicago, Newport Beach, CA, Golden Gate, CA, Long Island, N.Y., North Shore (Chicago), Louisville, and a member-at-large. The offices she held in those clubs included Secretary, Treasurer, Vice Pres. and President, and Parliamentarian, as well as Delegate to National Kiwi Convention.
Merrilyn deeply appreciated the demonstration of friendship of her many friends in her illness.
A celebration of life will take place Saturday, January 6 at 1:00 p.m., with visitation and tea to follow until 4:00 p.m., at Gilliland Howe Funeral Home. Memorials may be made to The American Cancer Society, The Decatur County Historical Society, or The Mary Kay Foundation (research of cancers affecting women and prevention of violence against women). Online condolences may be made to the family at www.gilliland-howe.com.
Published on January 3, 2018
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