Wellesley Council on Aging (COA) Director of Senior Services Gayle Thieme will leave the COA at the end of this month, closing out a 16-year tenure marked by a high point of shepherding the Tolles Parsons Center (TPC) from inception to its 2017 completion. Thieme’s last day will be August 30, 2019. She’ll relax for the Labor Day weekend, and then start right in at a mystery job. Although Thieme isn’t ready to share specifics about her new position, she will allow that seniors are a part of her future. “For 22 years I’ve worked in positions where I have served seniors – I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
Thieme’s years in Wellesley have left a big mark in town. A 13,000 square foot TPC-sized mark, to be exact, and every inch was hard won. Back in 2011, Thieme looked on longingly as abutting towns Needham and Natick approved the building of her dream — a standalone senior center. Wellesley wasn’t there yet, but Thieme was a believer that support for a Wellesley senior center existed and that the center would eventually rise.
A few things conspired to help coax the TPC into being. Thieme’s faith and hard work were instrumental. Then there was the $825k bequest to the town back in 2005 from former Wellesley resident Billie Tolles. (Some seed money always helps.) Finally, the town got behind the project when in 2016 voters approved to borrow about $5.5 million for the project. (More money helps even more.) The end result: Wellesley now has the Tolles Parsons Center, located at 500 Washington St.
Wellesley resident Mary Bower, legendary as the prime mover, principal organizer, chief spokesperson, and cheerleader for the the senior center, and the namesake of the TPC’s Mary Bowers Cafe, said, “Gayle has been such a huge part of my life for her 16 years at our COA, but since 2005, we’ve shed much sweat and many tears together and wondered if we’d ever see a senior center in Wellesley. But, with her as our Director, we gave each other strength to persevere and never give in or give up. We both shared the same goal for Wellesley seniors and I’m proud and most grateful that our vision became a reality in the Fall of 2017. Without her, I don’t think we’d have our Tolles Parsons Center.”
For Thieme, her years at the COA haven’t entirely been about Tolles Parsons. She says, “Certainly my proudest accomplishment has been (helping) to bring the TPC to fruition and working with many incredible people over more than a decade to achieve this. This was no easy feat! Additionally, I am proud of the significant expansion of programs and services and growing the staff and volunteer pool to support this growth. I also am proud to have launched the Volunteer Drivers Program back in February 2011 with a generous grant from The Fund for Wellesley to run it as a pilot. The program continues to operate today with about 35 drivers. We are always looking for additional drivers.”
Thieme isn’t done taking care of Wellesley’s seniors. She wants everyone to know that the COA is temporarily closed for warranty work and carpet replacement. “COA staff have relocated to the Department of Public Works building at 20 Municipal Way while the TPC is closed for repair work through August 16. We expect to return to the TPC on Monday, August 19.”
Thieme is thankful for her years in town. “I have always appreciated the tremendous support I received from my colleagues. Wellesley’s professional staff members are extremely capable and so very committed to their work and serving the residents of the Town to the very best of their abilities. When I stepped into the job as Director of Senior Services in 2006, I never imagined what the next decade plus had in store for me. It absolutely took a village and it was an incredible learning experience for me.”
Until a new COA Director is hired, Linda Clifford, Assistant Director of Senior Services, can help with residents’ questions. She can be reached at LClifford@wellesleyma.gov or by phone 781-235-3961 x6422
The COA’s main number is 781-235-3961, or send an email to: COA@wellesleyma.gov