Mary V. Borhek was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on April 26, 1922, the daughter of Henry Theodore and Maria Wilhelm Killough Borhek. She grew up in Bethlehem and attended Moravian Preparatory School, graduating in 1939 as valedictorian. She earned a B.S. degree in Home Economics from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, graduating as salutorian.
From June 1943 to June 1944, she worked at the Bethlehem Steel Company. From 1944 to 1951, she served as office manager, editorial assistant and staff writer for The Moravian., then the weekly news publication of the Moravian Church. Her articles appeared in a number of other religious periodicals during these years.
On May 29, 1951, Mary married Allen A. Lenius, a Moravian minister from Wisconsin, at the Moravian Church's Old Chapel in Bethlehem. She subsequently assisted Lenius as he pastored congregations in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Three children were born: Susan, Stephen and Elizabeth. In 1971 the marriage ended in divorce. Although at the time this seemed to be the worst thing that could have happened to her, Mary learned and grew in many ways that would not have been possible had the marriage held together. As she wrote later: "The sufferings through which I have passed have not been wasted. They have been stepping-stones to fuller, more outgoing living."
Mary worked as the secretary for the Minnetonka Baptist church in Minnesota from 1971 to 1974. After that she became bookkeeper for a small company in Minneapolis taht sold medical and research equipment..
Mary was a member of the New Testament Church, an independent charismatic congregation in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, when she discovered that her son Steve Lenius was gay. This was in 1975. In accordance with the beliefs of her congregation, she felt strongly that homosexuality was a sin. Over the next three years, Mary learned much more about homosexuality, and her beliefs changed.
At the time of learning about her son's homosexuality she tape recorded what was happening, believing that she would eventually write a book out how one gay man--her son--had been prayed straight. She began the book, but as time went on and her beliefs changed, it became a book about how she had learned to accept her gay son without wanting to change him. The book was published in 1979 by The Pilgrim Press as My Son Eric. Because Mary did not know how the book would be received, she changed everybody's name except her own--which is her birth name--to give her family privacy and protection. Over time, Steve (Eric) has come out unequivocally, and has acknowledged that he is Eric. My Son Eric has recently been reprinted in a revised and expanded edition, bringing Mary and Steve's story up to the 21st century.
In 1983 The Pilgrim Press published Mary's second book, Coming Out to Parents: A Two-way Survival Guide for Lesbians and Gay Men and Their Parents. This was updated in 1993 with various revisions and an added chapter for gay men, lesbians and their families dealing with AIDS.
In 1978-1979 Mary was active in Families of Gays and Lesbians in Minneapolis/St. Paul, a forerunner of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). She was also editor of the monthly newsletter of the smaller organization. From 1982-1983 she was a member of the advisory committee of Wingspan, a ministry with and on behalf of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons and their families, sponsored by St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul. In addition, Mary spoke to about 200 gay/lesbian organizations, PFLAG groups, and church groups at many places throughout the United States, as well as being interviewed on radio and TV and presenting workshops.
In 1986 Mary was invited to present a paper, "Helping Gay and Lesbian Youth Deal with Their Families," at the Symposium on Gay and Lesbian Adolescents, sponsored by the University of Minnesota Institute of Continuing Education in Adolescent Health Care. The following year this paper was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health Care.
In 1993, after moving back to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Mary founded Sanctuary, a group within the Moravian Church for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered persons.
In 2011, Mary published a book of her poems, "I Must Go to the Well: Word Pictures from a Woman's Soul." In April of 2013, Mary moved from her apartment at Pennswood Village, a retirement center, to the health care center of Pennswood, where she continues her writing.
Borhek died on October 25, 2016 at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Her body was interred a Nisky Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem on April 29, 2017.
(This biographical statement provided by Mary Borhek with additional information from the obituary for her memorial service.)
Biography Date: January 2003
Moravian | PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) | Ally | Author/editor
Know Mary V. Borhek? Tell us your experience.
(All entries are reviewed by the LGBT-RAN office before posting.)