At 95, she still visits the sick, elderly

By Monica Sawyn | For The Compass | June 29, 2016

Marie Anderson says God’s blessings make her want to continue outreach to others

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]STURGEON BAY — Marie Anderson was just about ready to give up her volunteer job of visiting homebound people, after doing it faithfully for 11 years.

On the very day of her near-decision, the woman she visited put both hands on Marie’s shoulders, looked into her eyes, and said, “I need you.”

Your Catholic Neighbor: Marie Anderson (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Marie Anderson (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

“I decided it wasn’t time to give up yet,” said Marie, sitting at the big dining room table that once was her grandmother’s. A vase of bright yellow daffodils in the center of the table seemed to echo her sunny smile.

At 95, Marie is older than most of the people who receive the visits. Their names are provided by Neighbor to Neighbor, a volunteer caregivers’ organization in Door County that helps seniors stay in their own homes. Marie’s age is part of the reason she decided to get involved in the program.

“God has been so good me,” she said. “My mother died at age 50 when I was only 9. My dad died when he was 71. I’m still alive, and I’m healthy. This is payback. And yet, I receive so much more than I give.”

Marie grew up in the Sturgeon Bay area, but lived all over the country after she married her late husband, Andy, who was a military man. When he retired, “we came home to roost.” Her six children were grown, and with time on her hands, the seed planted long ago by her brother, Arnold Schinkten, began to germinate.

“He was a Norbertine priest, stationed near a former sanitarium along the Fox River that had been converted into an old-folks home,” Marie said. “My brother used to give them little outings in the car, and I think his willingness to help others stayed with me.”

Marie began delivering Meals on Wheels and stayed with that program for 30 years, “until it got to be too much.” Then a friend told her about Neighbor to Neighbor. Once a week, she visited two different women in their homes, women who couldn’t get out on their own, and who were often hungry for company and conversation. Her job was simply to be present to them — and to take note of when they might need to be referred for other kinds of assistance.

Her current client suffers from sort-term memory loss, and is worried about having to eventually go to a nursing home. Marie doesn’t give advice.

“We just visit,” she said. “She unloads and I listen. Her own kids seldom stop by.” It’s not unusual for Marie to stay two hours or more, filling in the lonely hours of at least this one day of the week.

One of the women recently passed away, so Marie is down to one visit a week, which is actually the norm for Neighbor to Neighbor volunteers. She recently received an award from the organization, in part because of her age, but also because she was willing to commit to two people at a time.

She also visits old friends, parishioners and others she learns about who are living in area nursing or assisted-living homes.

“It’s so sad to walk down the halls and see people looking hopefully out of their rooms, waiting for someone to visit them,” she said.

Although visiting the sick and elderly is one of the corporal works of mercy, Marie never thought of it that way. She simply wanted to give back and found a way to do it while filling someone else’s need. Although she doesn’t announce it as “God’s work,” she draws her inspiration from prayer.

One of those prayer sources is a well-worn booklet she received long ago from the Holy Rosary Sodality of the former St. Mary’s Church in Bailey’s Harbor, now Stella Maris Parish. She pointed out her favorite prayer, which she said she has memorized and recites three or four times a day:

“Dear Lord, I shall pass this way but once. Any kindness that I can show, or any good that I can do, let me do it now. Let me not neglect it or defer it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Another of her favorites could serve as Marie’s own motto: “Great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us daily.”

Marie lives her life looking for those little ways.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Marie Anderson
Parish: St. Joseph, Sturgeon Bay
Age: 95
Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi
Words to live by: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”
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