Marie Dora "Doe" Thornburg
1922 - 2018
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Founder of International Women Associates Marie Dora "Doe" Thornburg died peacefully on May 25, 2018. Doe Thornburg (née Wettlaufer) was born in Boston on August 2, 1922, the eldest of eight siblings, all of whom preceded her in death. Doe attended Boston's Northeastern University, Chandler Business School, and Malkin Conservatory where she studied voice and piano. Her upbringing was greatly influenced by her paternal grandmother who, on numerous occasions, took her to Europe to complete her education in the fashion of the Grand Tour. As World War II was beginning, Doe joined the Red Cross as one of its spokespersons and organizers. After Doe came to Chicago, she served on the Boards of the Lyric Opera Guild, Hull House, the Museum of Contemporary Art (Women's Board), the American Cancer Society, International House, the International Visitors Center, and the Chicago Tourism Council, as well as on committees of Chicago Seminars on the Future and Know Your Chicago. For a number of years, Doe was National President of the English-Speaking Union. For her untiring efforts on behalf of this organization in improving the relations between Great Britain and the United States, she was honored by Queen Elizabeth II as a "motivator of people" and was made an officer in the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.). In 1978, while working with The International Visitors Center of Chicago, Doe recognized the need for a separate organization focusing exclusively on women from different international cultures and backgrounds living in Chicago and founded the International Women Associates (IWA). Its mission was "to promote understanding and cooperation among Chicago-area women of all nations." Of all Doe's many contributions, International Women Associates was her proudest. Her vision was one of world unity in the face of cultural, political and social conflict. She believed that bringing women of diverse backgrounds together created opportunities for understanding and appreciating what makes us world citizens. At the time of her death, IWA membership had grown to over 500 women from 60 countries. Through participation in language, culture, and activity programs, as well as in larger public meetings, IWA members' horizons are broadened, consciousness lifted, and friendships diversified. Its quest to put global understanding into action is inspired by Doe's mantra, "to see the sacred in everyone." IWA honored Doe in 2012 on the occasion of her 90th birthday by creating the IWA Doe Thornburg Scholarship. The purpose of the scholarship is to invest in students so that they become engaged global citizens. Doe believed that there is no better way to understand a different culture than to have direct interaction with that culture. For this reason, the scholarship was created to help female college students pursue their dream of studying abroad. To date, the IWA Doe Thornburg Scholarship is offered at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, School of the Art Institute and University of Illinois at Chicago. In 1972 Doe married Robert Thornburg, owner and director of Thornburg Clinical Laboratory, who died in 1997. In "Bob" she met her soul mate. Doe was "one in a million," a truly remarkable individual in spirit and physicality right up until the end. She had a beautiful smile, exuded an elegant sense of style and lived an engaged, purposeful life. She is survived by seven nieces and nephews: Catherine Wettlaufer Buehler (Jay), Robert Alan Doonan (Becky), Suzanne Marie Doonan, Andrew David Doonan (Sherron), William Lyons Doonan, Rear Admiral Michael Wettlaufer (Tina), and Professor John S. Wettlaufer (Ulrika) and their children, as well as by her cousins. She is also survived by stepdaughter Carol Kathleen Thornburg. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the IWA Doe Thornburg Scholarship Fund, in care of International Women Associates, 307 N Michigan Avenue, Suite 702, Chicago, IL 60601, 312-263-1421 or online at A celebration of life service will be held at The Arts Club of Chicago from 4-7 p.m. on September 12, 2018. For further information, contact

Published in Chicago Tribune on Jun. 26, 2018.
Celebration of Life
04:00 - 07:00 PM
The Arts Club of Chicago
Memories & Condolences
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24 entries
July 17, 2018
I know Doe from having worked for her equally
wonderful husband "Bob". Every time Doe would stop by the lab on her ways to her social functions, you could not help but be taken back
by her appearance. She was the epitome of a
Grand Lady. Such class. Such a sweet personality.

Over time, Bob and I became close friends. When he passed away, I was devastated. He was like a big brother to me. Doe met with me several times afterwards to reminisce my dear friend, sharing many comforting words and heart-warming stories to ease my sorrow.

There are many descriptions by others here about Doe with which I can only agree whole-heartedly.

Doe once gave me a tape of her narrating
a self-help meditation exercise. Hearing
her incredibly soothing, calming voice was extraordinary, and truly therapeutic.

You will be missed "Grand Lady".
God Bless you, rest in peace.
Say hello to Bob for me!!!!

John Piotrowski
Proud alumnus of Thornburg Laboratory.
June 29, 2018
Joining IWA and getting to know the Founding President Doe Thornburg and her vision for International Women's Associates has been a privilege and an honor.
I will miss you dear Doe.
Sheela Dayal
June 27, 2018
I met Doe for the very first time in 2011 when I joined International Women Associates, the wonderful organization that she founded. But I quickly felt that I had known her for decades, as her warmth and kindness touched so many. She will be missed terribly...but she will be remembered forever.
Francine Pappadis Friedman
June 27, 2018
I was so fortunate to have Doe become a part of my life. She was truly a remarkable woman with vision, a wonderful spirit and determination. I will never forget her signature call to remember the sacred in everyone.

Mary Sue Lyon
June 27, 2018
Sheela Dayal
June 27, 2018

I am so fortunate in having known Doe for
over 50 years, having met her when we were
both members of a small group called
Ponte del Arte. She was a stunning strawberry blond in those days and lived
on Armitage (current site of the Park West) in a cottage with a picket fence and climbing roses in the front. There she entertained often and my husband and I were lucky enough to be among her many friends. She and Bob Thornburg were married on a beautiful morning at the home of close friends in Old Town. Otto Kerner performed the ceremony and a champagne luncheon ensued, lasting well into the
afternoon. A gorgeous, graceful, witty and
certainly savvy woman who was one of a kind.
Jane Dunne
June 26, 2018
Dear Doe,
We are so happy to have our last lunch with you at the Peninsula Hotel not long ago. It was very special and we will miss your extraordinary conversations.
Grace and Tom
Grace and Tom Ewert
June 26, 2018
Reading her Obituary, I am amazed that, despite her many
interests and associations, Doe always seemed to have
time for individuals as well. She was a wonderful listener,
and a splendid friend. Doe walked happily on a pathway
between the individual friend and the soon-to-be international

Doe was kind and smart, and had a wicked sense of humor!
She also had the best posture on the planet, and an amazing
sense of style. No one wore a hat with the same kind of panache that Doe Thornburg did!

They don't make 'em like that anymore, and I will miss her
for the rest of my life. But wasn't I lucky to have been her friend
for a quarter of a century!!! And so many people will benefit
friend at a time opening a path to peace.
June 26, 2018
I remember a wonderful moment with Doe when we were crossing Michigan Avenue toward the IWA office. A large African-American female traffic cop was coming toward us and as we crossed paths she exclaimed to Doe, "Girl, you WEAR that hat!" Doe's many wonderful hats were one of many characteristics that made her memorable and in fact, unforgettable, to me.
Jill Brennan
June 26, 2018
May the legacy and light of our Founder unite the hearts of women all over the world.
Susan Hanes
June 26, 2018
Pilaar Pantoja
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Dear Thornburg Family and friends:
I am sincerely sorry for the loss of your loved one "Doe". May you find comfort in knowing that God keeps those who pass away in His memory - because they are precious in His eyes.
M. H.
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