When Marlene started working for GEF Seniors Housing at Kiwanis Place, the starting wage was $3.50 an hour. That was on November 1, 1977. Over 40 years later, Marlene still worked at Kiwanis Place and was an integral part of the team there.
Marlene was a soft spoken woman and everyone she encountered felt special when they were with her. She was private, yet bold in her ideas about how to improve life for both residents and staff at GEF. She was persistent in her pursuit of getting the black and white dress code changed and realized her desire when GEF adopted a coloured clothing dress code in February 2017. Finally she could dress daily in her favourite colour of pink and flowered clothing, bringing warmth and a family atmosphere to Kiwanis.
Marlene is known for her appreciation of the food GEF provided to staff during staff recognition events. Coworkers would tease Marlene as she enjoyed her second and third trip through the buffet line. On other days, Marlene always ate healthy and moderately to ensure she kept herself well and fit to complete the work that was so important to her.
Marlene was an avid shopper who regularly spent her free time checking for bargains focusing on anything pink and shoes, lots of shoes! “At Kiwanis, we were always anxious to see her new outfits after her annual bus trip to New York to visit family” said Peggy Caine, Manager at Kiwanis Place. Being the woman that she was, she always wore dresses or skirts to work and also had her hair pulled back neatly; no matter how many times her coworkers begged her to let her hair hang loose.
Marlene was born in Trinidad and moved to Montreal when she was a young adult. She and another long term GEF coworker then moved to Edmonton. She eventually was able to sponsor both her mom and sister, Mary, to come to Canada.
In 2010, Marlene was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the diagnosis, Marlene fought a great battle. Even through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Marlene missed very little work. She knew the importance of her work and wanted to be there for her coworkers and the seniors GEF serves. It was only when she had to be in the hospital that Marlene would miss work and it was unwillingly. No matter how much coaxing from her co-workers, Marlene would not hear of retirement. She enjoyed her duties, the residents and her coworkers too much to not keep working. When one thinks of a dream employee, Marlene fits the bill in terms of reliability and dependability.
On June 12th, 2018 Marlene lost her battle with cancer but it was a battle well fought. She will be remembered for her courage, perseverance and mostly for her quiet strength. Marlene was an inspiration.
For those of us at GEF that were touched by Marlene’s presence, we will miss her greatly. To her family, please know what a difference your mom, sister, grandmother, aunt and friend made to our lives. With heart felt gratitude, we offer this tribute to Marlene for having had the pleasure of knowing and working with her.