Mary Lou Gies: Creating a Life of Grace

By Leslie Moore

Prepare to laugh a lot when you meet Murrells Inlet resident, Mary Lou Gies. Attractive and lively, Mary Lou’s enthusiasm for life only increases with each passing year. Her secret to moving through the decades of life with grace and joy is simple – stay involved, do things you love – with people you enjoy.

Both Michigan natives, Mary Lou and her husband of 49 years, Peter, have lived in the area for 17 years. “I’ve never lived anywhere this long,” she laughed when I asked her about the places she’s lived. “Peter worked for General Motors, and we’ve moved nine times since we were married.” But Mary Lou and Peter made the very best of their semi-nomad life, creating lifelong friends and happy memories in every community. “We’re going back to Pittsburgh next spring for a 50th wedding anniversary. We’ll see friends we haven’t seen in years!”

“My favorite place I’ve lived is definitely here,” Mary Lou began. “But, I didn’t want to move at first. We were living in Pinehurst, and thought we would retire there. So, we built our dream home – it had everything we wanted. Before the house was complete, we found out we were being transferred.” Mary Lou went on to tell me she did get to live in her perfect home for a year before moving to the Grand Strand. Now she can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“For sixteen years after our oldest daughter, Jodi, was born I didn’t work,” Mary Lou told me as we began chatting about her teaching career. “I was very fortunate to be able to do that.” The couple had two more children, Keri and Greg, but when Greg, the youngest, was in 6th grade, Mary Lou decided it was time to go back to work. “I taught learning disabled students for 25 years,” she told me. “I loved every minute of it.” A love of teaching runs in the family – Mary Lou’s mother also taught. “When I graduated from high school, there weren’t as many choices for women. You could be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. I was terrible at typing and knew nursing wasn’t for me, so I became a teacher.” Her choice of special education is a little more personal. Mary Lou’s family lost her brother with Down’s syndrome at two and a half years old. “I remember how the bullies in the neighborhood would make fun of him, and I always wanted to help children like my brother.”

Mary Lou’s last teaching job before retirement was at Georgetown High School. “We moved to the area in January, and by February I was ready to go back to work,” she remembers. “Peter had to go to Georgetown for a meeting, and I decided to tag along and visit the education office.” When Mary Lou walked in and asked if there was an opening in special education, she was interviewed immediately. Two days later she had a job. “I absolutely loved my students. And, all but two graduated from high school while I was there.”

When I asked Mary Lou if she had a favorite decade so far, she thought a minute, laughed and said, “I guess the ‘80s. That’s when all the kids were home and very involved in sports and other activities. Peter was always a hands-on father and came to as many games as he could – he coached Jodi’s soccer team and on Saturdays he would go to the away game with Jodi’s team. Meanwhile, I would go to one child’s home game and the other child would ride with a teammate. It was really busy, but always fun!”

These days, both Peter and Mary Lou stay almost as active as they did while raising their family. A big no-no these days, Mary Lou still loves the sun – and judging by her youthful glow, it hasn’t hurt her a bit. “I’ve always enjoyed taking my sand chair to the beach and sitting with my feet in the water and reading,” she told me and laughed. But long, lazy days on the beach are not something she does very often – she’s too busy!

“I retired from teaching in 2008, and right after I started volunteering with Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art and Miss Ruby’s Kids. For Miss Ruby’s Kids, I chaired the auction and silent auction committees for their annual garden party. Now I chair the silent auction committee for PIFMA’s Wine Gala.” This is just the beginning of Mary Lou’s activities. She is the chair of her voting precinct, serves on several committees in her Wachesaw Plantation community, is a member of a book club, a bridge club and three lunch bunch groups. And she volunteers at Rescued Treasures one day a week, a thrift store that supports All4Paws animal rescue. All of this doesn’t even include the couple’s active social life! “My oldest daughter laughs because she can never catch us at home. But I just have to stay busy!” Mary Lou also had a part-time career in retail, working first at Barefoot Elegance and then Carolina Gourmet until last December. “I am considering another part time job,” Mary Lou laughed as I marveled at her energy.

“My women friends are so important,” this energetic woman told me as we were discussing friendship. “And I have different groups of friends – some acquaintances and some really good friends. “It’s nice because I see a good mix of people, plus we have our core, close-knit group.”

The only downside to life is how far away her children live. Jodi, the oldest, lives in Leewood, Kansas, where she works as District Sales Manager for Thryv. Single, Jodi does visit every Christmas, and Peter and Mary Lou go to Kansas for Thanksgiving. Her middle daughter, Keri, lives with her husband, Wayne, in Boise, Idaho. Keri took her mom’s passion for giving back and made it into a career. She works as the Director of Resource and Development for the Idaho Non-Profit Association. And the youngest, son Greg, lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Ellarae, who is 2 ½ and 7 month old Fenton. The couple both work full-time; Greg with FedEx, and Sarah as the manager of a physician’s office.

The family gets together as often as they can – but never enough for Peter and Mary Lou. “When Ellarae was born, Peter said he was the oldest first-time grandfather he knew! But both of our grandchildren are such happy children. They have wonderful parents.” The family did gather in Portland this past April, and Mary Lou beamed telling me about the happy reunion.

“I’ve had a great life,” Mary Lou said as we finished up our time together. “I have a great husband – our lives have been an adventure. Yes, there were ups and downs, but we have always made the very best of it. Our three children are wonderful, and I’m very pleased with the partners they’ve chosen. I’ve been very fortunate.”

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “Mary Lou Gies: Creating a Life of Grace”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Great interview with an inspiring woman who knows how to live it up.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close