Less than three months after learning of a malignant brain tumor, Mary has left her earthly body and is soaring free and at peace. She was a strong and empathetic warrior during this final phase, just as she was throughout her 71 years.
Born in Reno, Nevada to Benjamin (Ben) and Leonora (Nora) Ferrari — their fourth child, joining older siblings Robert (Bob), Marilyn, and Bernard (Bennie) — Mary attended Our Lady of the Snows through second grade before moving to Kings Beach in 1956, where she attended Kings Beach Elementary. Her mother, Nora, and future mother-in-law Elizabeth (Maranel) Thomas were both teaching at Kings Beach Elementary, just as Mary would, decades later.
Younger siblings David and Teresa joined the Ferrari family, and Mary later attended Truckee North Tahoe High School in Truckee (before North Tahoe High School was built in the 1970s in Tahoe City), graduating with the class of 1968. A strong young lady who enjoyed playing sports, Mary was always frustrated with the lack of opportunity and equity for female students to access athletic programming.
Mary attended Chico State University where she quickly found a group of forever friends, including her best friend, Kathy Hanlon, who also came from an Italian family. Their bond continued throughout their lives with many grand adventures. They celebrated their 50th birthdays by kayaking around Tahoe, something they repeated 10 years later.
By the time Mary graduated college, she had earned her teaching certificate and had reconnected with fellow Tahoe local Mike Thomas. They were married in 1973 and their honeymoon consisted of a six-month camping trip to all the national parks across the western states. They returned to Tahoe to start their family. Kari and Nora were born in 1977 and 1979.
Raising the girls, Mary displayed a strong and consistent work ethic as a full-time employee at the Kings Beach Safeway. She was a well-known and most efficient checker who started her shift at 4 a.m. stocking the freezers. She felt pride in her work, earning health benefits and a steady income for her family.
She transitioned back into education as the girls entered middle school, substitute teaching before accepting a preschool position at Kings Beach Elementary. She later moved into the upper elementary grades where she stayed for the rest of her career. Her teaching family brought her great joy, lots of laughter, and a solid group of lifelong friends. She is remembered fondly by former students who reflect on their time with Mrs. Thomas/Ms. Ferrari with gratitude and positive memories.
A lifelong learner, Mary enjoyed Spanish and Italian classes, singing in the Chico Women’s Chorus, and a variety of health, fitness, and wellness classes including yoga, meditation, and Jazzercise.
She enjoyed many travels and adventures with extended kayaking expeditions, backpacking, sailing, hiking, and cold-water mountain lake swims. She experienced numerous Mexican adventures, swam with sea turtles in Hawaii, and was honored to take a heritage trip to Northern Italy with her siblings, connecting with family.
Mary’s greatest joy in the later years of her life came from fostering positive relationships with her four grandkids (Seth, 13; Julia, 11; William, 5; Olivia, 3) and her “two Matts” (son in-laws Matt Michael and Matt Hunter).
She was a most supportive friend to many, nurturing positive relationships throughout her life. Her love is timeless and will continue to live in all who were fortunate enough to share a piece of her earthly journey.
There will be a celebration of life on Sunday, May 22 at 1 p.m. at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. Donations in Mary’s name can be made to the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe.
~ Kari Michael and Nora Hunter