Faces in the Crowd: Kim Jolly

April 25, 2019

By Aaron Michell

Marion High School gym and office aide Kim Jolly has a saying: Keep smiling, it’s good for you.
And she does it so well. Because these days, she has many reasons to smile.
Kim, the daughter of Larry and Sharon Thomas, grew up in the farm country of Colton, South Dakota.
She met her husband Dean while in South Dakota, and in 2005 the couple moved to Michigan. With a father who taught her the importance of traveling and seeing the world, they thought: What better place than Michigan?
These days, Kim keeps herself busy by staying involved with the Marion Little League, the PTO, the Marion Athletic Boosters, and in her role at the high school. She loves being around the students; specifically, she loves being that listening ear when kids just need someone to talk to.
When she’s not in and around Marion, she’s probably out with Dean and their two children: Mara and Corbin. The family loves to travel the state, hunting for antiques and going on outdoor adventures. If you can find them, you can expect to be greeted with a nice, warm smile.
Because with a name like Jolly, smiling comes naturally.
We caught up with Kim recently at the high school, where we learned all about who she is and where she came from. We learned that Kim Jolly is so much more than just another face in the crowd.

Kim Jolly

Marion Press: So we know you moved here from South Dakota, is that where you’re originally from?
Kim: I was actually born in Lakewood, California. I was young, and then my dad moved us to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We lived there for a while. He got married to my mom, who adopted us when we were six and eight. We were there for a little bit – K through 6th – and then we moved to a small town, Colton, South Dakota, where we went to Tri-Valley High School.

MP: What was life like growing up in South Dakota?
Kim: It’s way different than here. One thing my dad did say to me, because he was in the Navy: ‘Travel. Don’t live here all your life.’ Not that it was bad, he just wanted us to see more than that. Our school was in the middle of a cornfield so we had cows outside our windows. It was cool. [The town of] Colton is maybe smaller than [Marion]. It’s a farm town. I graduated from Tri-Valley in ’98.

MP: Tell us about the Thomas family. Did you grow up in a big family? What kept your family busy?
Kim: Through marriages, yes – there’s eight of us siblings. My dad worked at John Morrell Company – the meat packing company, and my mom worked at the justice courthouse.

MP: How did you get from South Dakota to Michigan?
Kim: My husband’s from Eaton Rapids, Michigan. And he had friends who lived in Colton, [one of which] whose dad owned a shop in Colton. And after he graduated he was working with his [friend] who said: ‘Hey, do you wanna take the shop over with my dad?’ So then [my husband] moved, and it was a mechanic’s shop – and that’s where my dad worked. He ended up being a mechanic working for my dad.

Kim in 1987.

MP: And how’d you make your way to Michigan?
Kim: And again, my dad [told us to] travel. [Dean and I] had been together since ’98, and it was five years later after we’d gotten married, and I said, ‘Let’s move.’ So we decided to come here in 2005.
We moved with his parents for a little bit, and then we moved to Dickerson, which is by Cadillac.

MP: So in 2005 you made the decision to relocate to this area?
Kim: Yes. We’d been to Michigan every year to come and visit. So I knew the area, because his family is here.

MP: When did you guys start getting involved with Marion? And how’d that come about?
Kim: 12 years ago. We were looking for a house. [People] would say: ‘Why choose Marion?’ Well, why choose anyplace? You find a house to stay; you live, you buy, and you become part of the town.

Kim and Dean at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.

MP: When did you first get involved with the school?
Kim: Well, it’s kind of funny, because I really enjoy cooking, and serving. So I worked at Duane’s [in Falmouth] for two years. And then we moved closer to here, so I worked at the Flashback. And my neighbor actually said, ‘Hey, what are you doing this summer?’ I said, I don’t know. My kids didn’t go to daycare – we had split shifts so we never had to put our kids in daycare – and she said: ‘Would you like to babysit my kids? I said sure.
And then I started subbing as a parapro at the elementary, and then I got to know [elementary teacher] Nicole McCrimmon, and she was pregnant, and she asked how do you feel about watching my youngest? And then I also got her other two. And then I got to know [high school teacher] JeNae Mcrimmon, and I watched her kids. So I did daycare for six years. And then I started working more at the school.

Corbin and Mara at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.

MP: Tell us a little bit about the Jolly family.
Kim: We’re pretty Jolly! We hear that all the time. We love getting in the car and just going. We don’t have a destination, we just go. We like trail riding – we’re very outdoorsy people. We like to just get [in the car] and go. We don’t plan a whole lot, because sometimes the best adventures are when you don’t plan them. Mara [7th grade] plays basketball, volleyball, track, and softball. Corbin [3rd grade] likes soccer, basketball, baseball, and he’s going to try football in the fall. And they’re both very outdoorsy. If it’s nice out, we’re outside.

MP: What are some of your favorite places that you’ve been?
Kim: It’s funny that you say that, because people always travel away. Spring break, for example, everyone travels away. We’re kind of just sick of the long distance. So we’ll get in the car, and go: ‘Okay, which way do we want to go?’
This spring break we went to see so many cool things. We went to Kalamazoo; we went to the S.S. Submarine; we went to the air zoo. We just go, and there’s no destinations. If we get too tired, we get a hotel – and make enough time if the kids want to swim.

The Jolly family aboard a ship in Muskegon.

MP: And Michigan has a lot to offer.
Kim: Yes. There’s so much stuff to do. And the four days that we [went on spring break] we were like, okay, now what else are we going to do? Because by that time we were all just tired! We stopped so many places.
And our main thing we like to do is antique shop. Our kids bring their own money, and they know what they’re looking for, and they know what stuff is worth. We watch American Pickers, so they’ve seen that. That’s something we do quite often.

MP: What is your favorite part of working at Marion High School?
Kim: You can make a difference by just listening to kids, and that means a lot to me. Just helping if someone has a problem; you can just listen and not say a word. Or sometimes they ask your advice, and I’ll say if you want to hear it, I’ll tell you, but you might not like it. I like it. I like being around kids.

MP: Who have been some of your role models over the years?
Kim: My dad. He raised us when we were two and three, all by himself, until we were six and seven. And for a man to do that back then, to my heart it means a lot. Raising children of my own, it definitely takes two. It takes a lot.

MP: What is the best advice that you’ve been given? Or words of wisdom that have helped you get to where you are?
Kim: I don’t know; people ask me: ‘Why are you so happy all the time?’ And I don’t know. My quote that I always say is, “Keep smiling, it’s good for you.” And I say that to kids even when they’re crabby. And they’re like: ‘Okay, Ms. Jolly.’ Because I won’t stop until they smile, or until I make them smile.

MP: What is your favorite part of living in Marion?
Kim: I like to be able to go away, but then coming home and knowing somebody when you go to the grocery store. You know somebody. There’s a lot of positive in the town, if you try to not worry about the negative.

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