Gratitude Hasn’t Died Yet

by Donna McBride, Councilwoman, City of Casa Grande

I am that person who has always had the attitude of a glass half full. But, this year has pushed me to the limit.

I have lost at least 12 people; some were close friends, others acquaintances. Each death moved me, leaving me with a lesson.


Anne Dessert was a 20-year volunteer advocate. She passed away at 100 years young. Her wit, charm, and drive still keep me grounded on tough days.

David Snider served our community through public office and civic engagement. Even as both candidates for city council, we embraced our differences and shared our passion, our beliefs, and friendship.

Chuck Schoville was a long-time law enforcement professional who supported me early in my nonprofit career. I met his daughter Krysten when she was 5. She now is a colleague at Juvenile Court. Chuck lost his battle with COVID, but his legacy shines through her.

Dr. Mike Thomson was a national motivational speaker. Our four-decade friendship lived through raising families, caring for aging parents, and changing career directions.

Pat Lairson was a court volunteer and successful real estate agent in Maricopa. She and Scott were madly in love and practiced their faith with passion. She and I often spoke about how lucky we were to have found the loves of our lives.

Tommy and Sammie Caywood were farming champions, hardworking people. Getting to know their daughter Nancy has shown me what really matters — family loyalty, hard work, and tradition.

And then, Mary Ann Hemmings. Her wit, zest for life, and generosity kept me grounded. I remember meeting her. She said she heard I was a hillbilly from West Virginia. I told her I was a proud “West by God Virginia” girl. From then on we were friends. She campaigned for me in scorching heat.

She showed up with her legendary homemade cheesecake just because. Her adventures on Facebook brought laughter on the worst days. Her passing crushed me. My “half-full glass” was dry.

Still, I realized something. While I had lost so many this past year, I was lucky. Lucky to have known them at all.

My challenge is for each of us to find a reason to be grateful for the lessons learned from those who left too soon and pass your kindness on.

Mary Ann’s passing helped me realize that, and I’m sure she was pouring my glass back to the rim.

Happy holidays to all.