Meet a Wisconsin member: Dawn Thom

Name: Dawn Thom.

Where I live: Green Bay, Wis.

Where and when I was born: I was born in the town of Upham in Wisconsin over 80 years ago.
Family: Six lovely children, all college educated with good careers, nine beautiful grandchildren and two wonderful great-grandsons who make me laugh.

Education: I went to a one-room school during my elementary years except for one year in a two-room school. I graduated from high school and went to business college for two years.
Occupation: At retirement, after 21 years, I was an internal auditor for a bank.

How I got where I am today: I was a stay-at-home mom until the children were self-sufficient and then went back into the workforce. My employer used to say I should just turn my salary over to my college-age children as that is where the money went, even though they also worked.

Eighteen years ago, my then husband, who was Lutheran and head of the family in his eyes and the church’s, wanted to teach me a lesson, so I was served divorce papers. His minister quoted the bible that women were not to speak and only ask their husband if they wanted to know anything. The hate in my ex’s eyes as he said I belonged in jail and he would try to put me there, set the stage to extract myself from the area. I moved to my present city to be safe.

Where I’m headed: I have written three books, two on local history, now located in the Green Bay library historical section, and one on domestic abuse, which has been approved by Golden House, the Green Bay abuse center. I volunteered for hospice work for a couple of years, learned to fly little planes and kept up on politics.

At this age, it’s a one-way trip, but I will end it, kicking and screaming all the way. I’m researching penal institutions, especially how communities and people treat felons who lack of housing and jobs when released, then show amazement when they reoffend. They have created the self-fulfilling prophecy of recidivism.

It has always puzzled me that most people judging someone for making bad choices are the most religious. So many do not have the empathy to reach down and give a hand to the needy. It is like they would soil their hands and not make it to heaven. Yet, Jesus is supposed to have said, “As ye do to the least of these, you do unto me.”

Ideas for two new books are rolling around in my head, but I haven’t been able to master the software needed. One would be on farm life in the 1930s to 1960s, the other about a young man incarcerated for 18 years after he made a bad decision at age 19 and the trials he has to overcome after release. Something always interferes, especially now with the hysterically funny politics.

My mother lived to be 91 and her brother to age 93, driving a car until he was 92. My father’s sister was well over 100 when she passed. All three stayed mentally alert. My brother is turning 88, drives his own car, and he and his wife take care of their house with very few problems. Full steam ahead!

Person in history I admire: The strong women who have stood up for equal rights and had the strength to not back down. Many are “unknown” but have lent their courage to the rest.
A quotation I like: “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man. ” (Sam Walter Foss, 1858-1911) “Your candle does not glow brighter if you blow someone else’s candle out.”

These are a few of my favorite things: Flowers, pets, people, traveling, cruises, jokes, music and playing the piano.

These are not: Rigid thinking, negative people, control freaks, especially the ones who use religion as a reason.

My doubts about religion started: Until I was 10, we went to a Congregational church with a lovely woman minister named Mrs. Lavis. Then we moved to my maternal grandparents’ farm where the closest church was Lutheran, which my grandfather wouldn’t attend, so we went to the United Brethren Evangelical Church. The first time I went to the church service, the ritual seemed normal until the minister started thundering how you could only be saved if you gave yourself to Jesus. Otherwise, you would go to hell. He looked and acted crazy. My eyes opened wide, I shrunk into my seat and clung to my grandmother. This was not religion as I had known it up to then.

The more I was forced to go, the more I resisted. But my parents insisted it wouldn’t hurt me, so catechism was a must. I hid the book and did not study and knew only one answer when it came time to pass the test, which embarrassed my family no end.

Before I die: My bucket list starts getting shorter, and then other things pop up, so it is never-ending. Those two books are rattling around in my head just waiting to be put down in the computer. Traveling to see different cultures would be a lot of fun. I’ve outlived traveling companions. It would be fun to go to D.C. again and see the changes made in the last decades.

Ways I promote freethought: By my actions and discussing my beliefs in a rational manner (most of the time, not always calmly) with those who question or make uneducated remarks about beliefs that conflict with theirs.

Freedom From Religion Foundation