Mary Elizabeth Thomas was born to James and Ellen Thomas on April 18, 1986, in Oxford, Mississippi. Her mother worked at a fabrics store part-time to supplement James's earnings from his Chevron service station.
James worked long hours, and with Ellen working too, Mary looked after her two younger sisters, Julie and Eleanor. Mary accepted the responsibility without resentment and took pride in her siblings' accomplishments.
The family always watched the annual TV showing of the Miss America pageants. The three girls loved to dress up and pretend they were walking down the runway with tiaras on their heads. They spent hours perfecting the "queen wave" and playing dress-up in their mother's high heels, gloves, earrings, and her out-of-style dresses.
When the girls wanted pageant dresses for their dolls, Mary started making them out of scraps Helen brought home from the fabric store and discovered a talent for sewing.
As she got older, Mary began making dresses for her little sisters. Using different fabrics and tweaking styles slightly, she could reuse one basic pattern for all three girls. Coming up with new variations became a challenge to her, and eventually, she made her own patterns.
When schoolmates found out Mary made the Thomas girls' unique clothes, they asked her to create dresses for them. Mary realized she could earn money, especially at prom time, and still be at home to watch over Julie and Eleanor.
Mary graduated from Yoknapatawpha High School as an average student with a talent for color and style in women's clothes, which helped her get a job at Village Tailor. She loved helping women with their wardrobes, and the customers appreciated her attention. She had less time to sew but still made some of her sisters' school clothes and their prom dresses.
Mary Thomas met Elliott Jones in the spring of 2008 at a party, and she immediately liked the serious, shy young man. After dating for nearly a year, they married in June 2009 and looked forward to starting their own family.
After a couple of years of marriage, they were financially ready to have a baby. After months of trying and numerous tests, they were heartbroken to learn that Elliott was irreversibly sterile. A friend gave Mary the name of an adoption attorney who could help them get a child. Elliott was hesitant at first, but knowing how much Mary wanted a baby, he agreed.
Mary and Elliott adopted a newborn baby girl named Billie Jo in October 2013. Mary took a maternity leave from Village Tailor for several months. She and Elliott had hoped his earnings would be sufficient to support them, but after a few months, they had to admit they needed Mary's income.
Village Tailor was so delighted with her return to work that they promoted her to manager with a significant pay raise. Mary set up a schedule for her sisters to babysit Billie Jo, letting them earn extra money while Mary did the same.
At the store, Mary met Susan Dubois, a long-time customer of Village Tailor, and as they chatted about their similar interests, including beauty pageants, they became friends.
Growing up, Susan's daughter, Barbara, couldn't always find ready-made clothes for her pageant wear, so Susan hired Mary to design and construct special garments suitable to Barbara's changing size and age.
In April 2020, as Elliott was driving back to Yoknapatawpha County from nearby Lee County, a mid-afternoon tornado passed through the area. Debris hit his car, forcing it off the road. Elliott was killed instantly.
In the aftermath, Mary relied on support from Susan, who knew from experience how devastating a spouse's death could be. Mary appreciated having a friend who truly understood the difficulties of widowhood and single-parenting.
Mary and her daughter, Billie Jo, and Susan and her daughter, Barbara, became closer than ever and thought of themselves as family.
Mary and Billie Jo were at the YCCC for the Yoknapatawpha County Literary Beauty Pageant to support their friend, and Mary was the one who called 911 to report Barbara's disappearance.