On game night, you might find Mary Thomas wearing orange and blue, or red and blue or maroon and gold.
It’s not that the 93-year-old is a fair-weather fan. It’s that she cheers for any team that has one of her great-great-grandsons on the roster.
“Whenever they have a game, honey, I’m there,” she said with a laugh, sitting in the Frankfort home she’s owned for nearly 50 years. “I just love to go and cheer them on.”
Right now she has four great-great-grandsons who play sports in Frankfort and Lexington, and she catches rides to their games with her daughter and son-in-law, Sandra and Henry Davis. That usually means two to three games a week.
“We’re in the fifth-generation (of our family), so I’m running to ballgames all the time,” she said.
She arrived at Frankfort High School’s homecoming football game against Western Hills High School earlier this month to cheer on great-great-grandson Jalen Washington, a sophomore.
She brought her folding chair, as usual, setting it up at the base of the home team’s bleachers. But luckily she was leaning over the fence at the sideline when Jalen hurtled into the end zone for a touchdown.
“Did you see that?” she said, turning around and throwing her hands in the air. “That was great!”
She returned to her seat when the action on the field slowed down, but greeting three generations of grandkids, relatives and friends who were there for the game kept her busy. Most leaned down to give Mama – that’s what they all call her – a hug and a kiss.
Besides Jalen at FHS, Mary is spending the fall cheering on Devon Quincy at Lafayette High School, Dajuan Davis at Elkhorn Middle School and Tae Shawn Davis in the youth league.
Other grandkids have had success on the field and court over the years, and her great-granddaughter, Tanika Davis, coaches the FHS cheerleaders. She even has a granddaughter, Terrell Davis, who teaches karate.
Mary loves any sport her family plays, but basketball remains her favorite, long after she played the game herself. She was a member of the Mayo-Underwood High School team “back in the day.”
She encouraged her now-grown grandson, Tim, when he got involved with soccer and then other sports as a kid.
“She’d get him in the backyard and play with him, baseball, basketball, football, whatever season that he was in,” Henry said.
It’s a good influence on their young lives, she said. Her granddaughters have been active too over the years, she said.
“It encourages them to go farther, it keeps them out of trouble,” she said. “I just think it inspires them, and they should.”
In addition to her regular spot on the sidelines, Mary spends five days a week at the Franklin County Senior Activity Center. She plays bingo, card games, table tennis and chats about whatever’s on her mind with her fellow seniors.
“It’s just something to do,” she said. “If you want to sew, you can sew, and we have a treasure room with all kinds of pretty things, and you go back there and shop.”
Mary started visiting the senior center when she was 68 and volunteered regularly until her 93rd birthday March 16, serving meals and selling clothes in the consignment shop.
“They said, ‘Mary, it’s time for you to let us wait on you,’ so I quit,” she said, laughing.
Mary is OK with taking it easy, but she likes to remind the senior center volunteers that she can get her own meal too. Wait on yourself as long as you can, she says – that’s what keeps you going.
“There’s so many things I do because I don’t want them waiting on me,” she said.
“Right now I can do and want to do for myself. I’m active, I’ve been blessed for 93 years. God is good.”
Mary attends First Baptist Church with the Rev. Robert Earl Huston. She’s been a member since age 12, and was active on the usher board for decades and continues to attend Bible study.
“This is my home,” she said of Frankfort. “Born and raised right here.”
The 10th of 11 children in her family, Mary far outlived her twin sister, who died at age 55.
She worked as a housekeeper in private homes, state government and what was then Kentucky State College for many years, and she also ran the elevator at the Capital Plaza Hotel for a stint.
Mary had one daughter, Sandra, and raised a foster daughter, Anna Jones, a niece she took in when her mother died and left behind seven children. Mary said she didn’t want the children to end up in a home, so she called a meeting with her family to place them.
Sandra was 18 and newly married to Henry, her childhood sweetheart, when 6-year-old Anna moved in with her mother. Anna now works as an assistant minister at the family’s church.
It wasn’t unusual for Mary to act as a caretaker. Her family says she’s caring and would do anything for anybody, including the sick or other people in need.
Henry said kids flocked to her when they needed her guidance.
“Children always came to her if they needed to talk to her, she fed them if they needed to eat,” he said.
Mary retired at 65, though she says – and you tend to believe her – that she “could have gone on and on.” She now spends some of her free time traveling with Martin Tours.
Lately, she’s visited state parks, but her travels have taken her to places like Chicago, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and – her favorite trip of all – the Caribbean.
She took her first airplane trip in 1989. The photo, captioned “Oh, what a thrill,” adorns one of the pages of her scrapbooks documenting her voyages.
“I just like being with people, seeing new things and places that you’ve never seen before,” she said.