For Mary (Theme Thursday)

Oh, but Cari’s theme this week (Google Image Search) is just too good; AND, it gives me a chance to share something with you that I should have posted, like, TWO MONTHS AGO.

Cari asks her readers to do an image search on ourselves and post the first picture that comes up.  I typed in my first and last name, and got a whole bunch of photos of another woman with the same name as mine, and books that I presume she has written.  I then tried typing in my first, maiden, and last name (the same one I use for my Facebook profile), and saw a lot of random pictures, some of which I had posted on one of my blogs and/or Facebook.  The first image is one you’ve seen already, in a previous post here:


But the one that caught my attention was this one:


That’s my friend Mary, holding her adopted son, Justin.

Earlier this summer I posted this on my Facebook page:

Mary and the Hokie Half

This is for everyone loves to run, wants to start running, hates to run, wants nothing to do with running but loves being with friends; AND all of you who knew and loved our friend Mary Wieczynski Furnivall–pretty much everyone on my friend list.  I’m tagging certain people–those who knew Mary, and some of my friends who run and might be interested in this little project of sorts.  But I’m extending this invitation to everyone.

I’ve known Mary since we were kids.  We lived in the same neighborhood and walked to school together, rode our bikes together, sold Girl Scout cookies door-to-door together, went trick-or treating together.  We were counselors together at the same summer camp–two of the best summers of my life.  After we grew up and went our separate ways, I hardly ever saw her but still considered her one of my dearest friends.  At the end of February of this year I learned through a mutual friend that Mary was in the final stages of cancer; she passed away only a couple of weeks later.

Mary and her husband David made their home in Kenya.  Last fall, they adopted a little boy named Justin.  My friends and I learned that Mary received her cancer diagnosis around the same time that the adoption went through.  Soon after I learned that Mary was sick, I was visiting my parents in Blacksburg and decided to go for a run.  I ran through our old neighborhood, past my house and Mary’s house, and down the Huckleberry Trail, where Mary and I and some of our friends used to explore before it was turned into a paved walking/biking/running trail.  It was a beautiful cleansing run, and my mind was exploding with so many wonderful memories of Mary, some of which I had practically forgotten.  I thought about David and Justin, Mary’s parents, her brothers and their families.  I prayed for them, as I do every day.

A few weekends ago, many of Mary’s friends from high school got together in Blacksburg for a wonderful memorial for Mary. I can’t thank L and R and S enough for all the work and planning that went into it–not to mention Mr. and Mrs. F for the wonderful lunch at their house that day!  It was an amazing weekend, and I am ever grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in years, and to share our stories and memories of the beautiful friend we lost too soon.  (I even had a chance to go for another run AND an amazing bike ride with my friend J, and I am especially thankful for the time I got to spend with her.)  I know Mary was with us that weekend.

On one of my recent visits to Blacksburg, I happened to pull up behind a car that had one of those “13.1” stickers on the back.  I noticed right away that it looked different from others I had seen–maroon with orange writing.  When I took a closer look at it I saw the little Hokie Bird footprints adorning it and the words, “Hokie Half.”  As soon as I got home I looked it up, and found out that just last September Blacksburg hosted the first annual Hokie Half Marathon and 5K, and that the next one was coming up in October 2014.  I also noticed that the half marathon course ran along the Huckleberry Trail, and at mile 10, right past Mary’s house(!!), and down Airport Road past Margaret Beeks Elementary where we went to school.  It got me thinking:  Wouldn’t the Hokie Half & 5K be a wonderful way to honor Mary?  And just maybe we can try and raise a little bit of money for New Life Home Trust, the home for children in Kenya that gave Justin to Mary and David?  When I first mentioned the idea to L she thought it was a great idea, and just about everyone we’ve talked to about it has said, “Yes!  Let’s do it!”

This thing is in the early planning stages now.  We’re working on having shirts made for everyone who wants to participate.  If you think you might want to run the half marathon, you’ll want to start training soon (like, NOW), and there are all kinds of half marathon training plans online you can use.  J sent some of us a great one from the New York Times, where you can find a training plan that works for you.  (Thanks again, J!! Here’s the link: .  There are lots of other training plans out there; let me know if you need help finding one.

Not interested in running a half marathon?  That’s OK, they have a 5K too!  You could either run or walk that distance.  You could even just come to Blacksburg for the weekend, and cheer for all the runners and walkers.  No matter how we want to participate, it will be a great weekend to spend in honor of our dear friend, and to support a wonderful cause!

If you want to make a donation to New Life Home Trust, CLICK HERE.

You can tell your friends about it, and let them know what we’re doing.  Right now we don’t have any plans to formally fundraise, like going through a fundraising website or collecting pledges; we’re just putting the information out there so people can donate if they wish.

L has set up a Facebook group, “Running for Mary,” for anyone who might be interested in participating in our little project.  Please let us know if you want to be added to the group.  It’ll be a great way for us to support each other and keep each other posted on our progress.  PLEASE, PLEASE share this letter with as many people as you can think of who might be interested in on this fun project for a great cause and a great friend!



All right, so I know the Hokie Half Marathon and 5K is less than two months away, which for most people isn’t enough time to train…BUT, there it is.  If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll contact you (and I think my email is on my WordPress profile page, so if you’d rather you can get in touch with me that way).

Thanks for taking the time to read this longish post.  Check out Clan Donaldson to see what other people came up with in their Google searches of themselves!  (Oh, and by the way…Cari says we get bonus points if we post a screenshot of the results of our search.  I don’t know how to do that.  I’d love for someone to tell me!)

P.S.  To register for the Hokie Half Marathon and 5K, click here!

About momn3boys

I'm a 40-something mom of three sons. I'm a teacher, lover of the outdoors, and a convert to the Catholic faith. My recent love of running and geocaching inspired me to start my blog, Ramblings of a Runner Cacher. Even though my family doesn't share my love for either of those things, we have A LOT of other things we enjoy together: movies, the beach, skiing, and Indy Car racing to name a few.
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2 Responses to For Mary (Theme Thursday)

  1. Cathal Quinn says:

    I was at Camp Gwynn Valley for two summers too, in 1987 and 1989. Mary was the life and soul of the camp, a doer, creative in her craft making, such a warm, nurturing presence for the children and staff alike, and drew out of himself this very insecure Irish/English first timer in 1987.
    We sang a psalm together – with Mary on the guitar – one Sunday service which I sing every day now to honour her memory.
    We used to write before and during her time in Guatemala, but lost touch until she contacted me on Facebook a few years ago. There was talk of meeting up in Ireland or Great Britain, but all went quiet. In our busy lives I presumed she had changed her plans and was back in Kenya… I had no idea of her battle with cancer and only found out she lost that battle last month, on Facebook, when a former colleague of Mary’s posted that beautiful picture of her and Justin that you put up on this blog.
    Here is a very happy memory that I would like to share which only returned to me a few days after finding out about her death…
    Prior to my second time at the camp in Brevard, North Carolina, Mary was studying German in Salzburg, Austria. Mary invited me over to visit. I was at Drama school in Scotland, and had just done a wild Nigerian play playing a Savage tree spirit( yes I became a tree!) and retained the mohican from the play as a surprise, arriving with it under my hat, literally, a Chairman Mao communist green cap with a red star on the peak.
    On the weekend Mary and I decided to hitchhike from Salzburg to Vienna. It was not going well. We were standing by the side of the road for at least an hour. Eventually a kind young man felt sorry for us and stopped, but was only going to Matsee. Not knowing where it was but grateful to get off our feet we clambered in and he took us the paltry thirteen kilometres to his home town!
    His mother gave us a late lunch:knödel, traditional Austrian fare. He then took us to a local pub to meet his friends. We drank beer, played pool and were the glamorous outsiders in this very small village. A very old Austrian man stole the hat that was disguising my mohican and we all watched amazed as he slowly walked out the pub and into a waiting car which promptly drove off!
    He returned an hour later – without the Chairman Mao hat – but with very old, worn, typically Austrian green headgear, complete with feather, and smelling of his old head!
    Our new friends thought this hilarious. We were now celebrities in Matsee!
    We went to one of their houses for more fun and games, one said ‘It was very funny to meet you you are very funny persons’ They put us up for the night: ‘At what time are you standing up in the morning?’
    The next morning our kind host drove us back to Salzburg!
    We never made it to Vienna, but had a great story to tell and a new/old smelly hat to cover the mohican…
    Mary was kind, spoke her mind, was patient, determined and possessed a soul as full of love as that beautiful smile of hers. Her soul and her smile, those are the two things I most treasure. It was a privilege to have known her.

  2. momn3boys says:

    Cathal, what a wonderful story! I remember you and the psalm you and Mary sang, wasn’t it “To You Yaweh, I lift up my soul O My God” ? That was the first time I had heard it; and now when I read those words or sing them in church I think of that. (When I became Catholic in 1996 Mary was so excited and happy for me! One thing she told me was that I was going to love being Catholic, and she was right! 🙂 )

    Mary didn’t tell many people about her illness, pretty much only her family and the people she worked closest with. It left many of us wondering why, and wishing we had known so we could at least try to spend a little time with her. Apparently by the time she was diagnosed the cancer was so advanced that there wasn’t much they could do even though she went through some pretty aggressive treatment. After her death her colleagues at USAID in Washington DC held a little memorial for her in her office, and I went with a friend of mine and Mary’s. They knew of her illness because she had to come to the US for treatment, and they said she continued to work even while fighting the disease. Amazing. They also told us that she told so few people because she had SO MANY friends all over the world, and that EVERYONE would want to come and visit her, call her, etc. etc. and what she really needed was to be with her family and have the energy to fight the cancer. I can certainly understand that!

    Mary used to always ask me, “When are you coming to visit me in Kenya?” I would always say when my kids were older, etc. Of course now I wish I had. I think of her every day, see her smile, hear her laugh. The strange thing is I feel closer to her now than I did when she was in Kenya, like she’s with me and I can reach out and touch her. She inspired me to come out of my comfort zone, and to do things I never thought I would do (like spend the summer at Gwynn Valley 🙂 ). She and I did not always see eye to eye on a lot of things, but she always spoke her mind with a smile and the assurance that she loved me even when my opinions differed from hers. You don’t run across too many people like that. I’m so glad you found me here, God bless!!

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