Guest Post Written by Steve Allan*
Marmie Hess was a Rotarian. She was also an Officer of the Order of Canada and a proud Albertan. She received Honorary Doctorates from three Alberta Universities. Most of all, Marmie was a great humanitarian and philanthropist who cared deeply about her community.
She received many accolades that many close to her weren't even aware of because Marmie didn't talk about them. She was a humble person who thousands simply called friend.
|Dr. Marmie Hess|
This is the story about a lady who lived her life guided by a clear set of values and principles. That was the heart of her personal brand.
She recently died at the age of 100. Steve Allan, the Past District Governor of Rotary District 5360 gave a moving tribute at the celebration of Marmie’s life.
|Marmie celebrating her 100th |
birthday with Past President Tony
Knight of the Calgary West
All too often we meet extraordinary people and fail to realize the full extent of their influence. They touch thousands of lives because of their support for the community. One such person was Dr. Marmie Hess.
To those who knew her, she was just ‘Marmie.’ When you sat with her, you quickly discovered that she could talk about the weather and make a profound observation that would make an everyday conversation become extraordinary and interesting.
|City of Calgary|
They were so good at what they did that I could rarely get them all into the same room at the same time. One was off to China on a month long music tour while another took two months off to finish a masters degree in Toronto.
A third member regularly flew between Calgary, Los Angeles and Montreal on business. Another was shooting a TV documentary. If you have served as a volunteer leader, I’m sure you’ve been there!
In the midst of the project roll out, I attended a Rotary committee meeting that included Marmie. Three of us sat chatting while waiting for 2 others. A snide comment was made that some Rotarians are notoriously late or completely forget about committee meetings altogether.
Without dropping a beat, Marmie said this:
The rest of us looked at each other for a moment … and then promptly started the meeting without further comment. The missing duo eventually joined us!
WOW! That observation caused me to think differently about the non-Rotary project. She was right! Each of my committee members did at least one substantial thing that contributed significantly to the whole.
The event drew 80,000+ people and was a resounding success. As Steve Allen explains below, that kind of everyday insight was typical of Marmie. - Robyn Braley, BTRB Publisher.
A Tribute to Marmie Hess
Written by Steve Allan*
|Steve Allan FCPA, |
This morning’s turnout is, in itself, a tribute to the wonderful legacy of a person who, at 100 years of age, outlived most of her contemporaries.
Remarkable LadyMost people only knew Marmie through a single facet of her life. Some related to Marmie because of her passion for art or education or her involvement in Rotary, the Calgary Stampede, the Glenbow Museum or the world class Calgary Zoo.
However you were connected to Marmie, I think it’s safe to say that prior to reading her obituary, none of us had a full appreciation for the depth and breadth of her reach into our community. I suspect that each of us are aware of things that have been left out!
A Life ConnectedMy connection to Marmie spans my entire life. Marmie and my grandfather were neighbors.
The family home where Marmie grew up was across the street from my grandfather’s home. His house was built in 1910 on the corner of Durham Avenue and 8th Street in Calgary, Alberta.
In addition to knowing my grandfather, Marmie knew my mother and her siblings.
I remember our first conversation occurred when I was in my late teens or early twenties. We talked about my grandfather who owned a bookstore and ‘lending library’ in the early 1900’s.
|Marmie had a life-long love for horses. |
Marmie and her father circa 1940
Over the years, Marmie and I had many conversations about my grandfather’s collections, his bookstore , the library, and his role as a leader in early Calgary.
Leadership InfluenceOur relationship grew closer when I assumed a leadership role as the President of the Calgary Stampede, then as District Governor of Rotary District 5360, and more recently as a Governor with the University of Calgary.
I always enjoyed hearing stories about her own involvement with these organizations. She was proud of them and what they and many others did in the community.
Our conversations helped me appreciate how deeply Marmie cared about our community. She was committed to the idea that, as individuals and organizations, we must be deliberate and intentional about upholding the values she believed made our community strong and unique.
A few years ago the Stampede commissioned a research study to identify and articulate the values that characterize our city.
A Life Well LivedNow, in retrospect, we probably did not need to do any research. We could have simply written a description of Marmie because she personified those values; she lived and breathed those values; they were second nature to her.
|The view from Marmie's ranch.|
In her totally unselfish — and I might add stubborn — way, she insisted that the celebration not be about her, but rather, our community and the work of the organizations she supported over the years.
Despite her admonishment — and while it was a great celebration of community — it was also a wonderful recognition of an amazing woman who played an enormous role in strengthening our community by being true to the values I just outlined.
Always a LeaderAs you are all aware, Marmie had an incredible mind, even at the age of 100. She was laser-like in her focus and could pose a question or make a comment that would literally stop you in your tracks and get you thinking.
I knew this firsthand since my role in the Stampede, Rotary and the University had me interacting with Marmie in her capacity as a supporter of those same organizations.
As we talked, her habit was to ask piercing questions. But, they were always good questions.
I knew her intention was not to trip me up. Rather, she wanted to ensure that the organization I was associated with and that she supported was focused on the right things – not only for the good of the organization but, more importantly, for the community.
Youth and EducationThe objective of her support was always threefold:
- To give young people a hand up in realizing a personal goal
- To encourage young people to develop their character through lifelong learning.
- To inspire other donors to step up and provide similar support
When Marmie and I talked about the young people she was supporting through her contributions to the Stampede Band Scholarships or to the kids we were helping through the Rotary Stay in School Awards program, she always wanted to know about the impact our programs were having on their character.
No matter what field of endeavor they pursued, Marmie was most interested in ensuring we were doing our utmost to develop leaders whose lives reflected the values she held so dear.
As a lifelong learner herself, Marmie led by example and always did her best to show her personal support for the young people in our programs.
Western IdealI was particularly moved earlier this summer when she participated on stage, at the age of 100, at the Stampede Grandstand show before 20,000 people when the youth scholarship recipients were being honoured.
It was a cool evening and it was late! But she was there, no matter the personal discomfort, because it was important to her. That was Marmie.
As was stated in her obituary and completely consistent with the values I spoke of earlier, one of Marmie’s favorite sayings was:
Marmie rode long and she rode well. Extremely well! As a result, she will always be remembered as a woman of the highest standards.
She has left behind a wonderful legacy, and, I might say, a call to action. We would do well to reflect on the life she led and the values she held so dear.
We would do well to continue to build on the same foundation with the same determination, tenacity and passion that characterized Marmie Hess.
In Marmie’s memory, the Calgary Stampede Show Band will play two of her favorite pieces — ‘Magnificent Seven’ and ‘Calgary and that Spells Calgary.’
The song ‘Calgary’ was special to Marmie because it was written in 1926 by Harry Hutchcroft who worked for Marmie’s father as a night foreman.
Marmie believed the words of the song transcended time; ringing true of the pioneers of Calgary’s earliest days. Just like her Father and Harry and my grandfather, and still true of the people of Calgary today. - The End
Steve Allen is Chair of Calgary Economic Development, the Calgary Stampede Foundation and McMahon Stadium Society, Board Vice-Chair of the Neyaskweyahk Trust of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, a Governor of the University of Calgary. Steve served as Chair of the Canadian Tourism Commission (now known as Destination Canada) for seven years. He also served as Co-Chair of the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative and chaired the Committee to Refresh Calgary’s Economic Strategy. He is Past President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta and has volunteered for the Institute (now CPA Alberta) throughout his career.
Steve has been a committed member of the Rotary Club of Calgary since 1980 and served as Club President in 1994-95. He served as Governor of Rotary District #5360 in 2009-10.