Farewell, Marilyn, and Thanks
by Glenn Gannaway, Staff/Writer, The Post
region's leaders joined her co-workers and friends in
bidding farewell to Marilyn Pace Maxwell, the leader for the first 38
years of the existence of "one of the greatest public service
organizations in Virginia and the nation as a whole," as Judge Clarence
"Bud" Phillips said.
Maxwell's last day as executive director of Mountain Empire Older
Citizens, which began with her work as a gerontology planner in the
early 1970s, was Wednesday, October 31. Her retirement celebration
was held last Thursday at Goodloe Center.
"Over the years I have watched Marilyn become a mentor for the women of
Southwest Virginia," said Phillips, former General Assembly member and
now 30th District judge. "She was probably one of the first
advocates in the mountains of Southwest Virginia for women to get an
education, for women to become part of the leadership of organizations,
for women to participate in sports, for women to become an integral part
of the public life of Southwest Virginia," Phillips said.
If there was a theme running through the celebration, it was Maxwell's
passion for the people of Southwest Virginia and for providing services
to those people - a passion that had a profound effect on co-workers, the
public and political leaders.
Dr. Terry Kilgore, calling Maxwell "a true Southwest Virginian," noted
Maxwell's effectiveness as an advocate for the elderly. "Each year
in the General Assembly, we sit around and talk about the top
lobbyists," Kilgore jokingly said. "And every year, I put in a
plug for Marilyn."
"I don't know what we're going to do without you," Kilgore said in his
salute to Maxwell. "We're going to miss you."
Like Maxwell, Joan Boyd Short came to Wise County from the small town of
Sheffield, Ala. - a fact that neither one knew until the two began
working together. They shared a trailer on West Norton Road in
1972 and have been colleagues and friends ever since.
"Not many of us in our lives get to know people who truly do impact the
world we all live in," said Short, a former MEOC employee and now the
Ninth District representative to the Commonwealth Council on the Aging.
"I believe every person impacts the world each person lives in, but
Marilyn cranks it up. Our community has been incredibly,
positively impacted. The quality of life of the people in our
community has been incredibly impacted because she had a vision; she had
Julia Dillon, director of MEOC's in-home and family support services,
shared humorous anecdotes of working with Maxwell, but she also noted
"One, her hard work. She is tireless in her mission to see that
the most vulnerable folks here in Southwest Virginia have what they need
to make their lives better. Two, her concern for the folks she
serves and the staff she works with on a daily basis, and their
families. Three, her passion. When Marilyn believes in
something, watch out. We all know she's not going to let it die.
Four, her Andy Griffith style of doing things. She can chew you
out and have you walk away saying, 'hmm, I'm not sure what happened just
now, but I think that went pretty well.'"
Helen Lewis, a key figure in Appalachian studies and a professor at
then-Clinch Valley College, helped bring Maxwell to the region.
Lewis noted that someone was needed to teach the college's new social
work program. "She helped develop a really fine rural social work
program," Lewis said, adding that Maxwell helped train social workers to
lead agencies all over Southwest Virginia.
Robert Ledford, a graduate student of Lewis and Maxwell, remembered
becoming the first driver for the upstart Meals on Wheels program.
"I look today and see the fleet of all the vehicles, and I see the
people that have been served. But all of this is because someone
had a vision. God put it in your lap, and you have done great with
it." Ledford told Maxwell.
"They always say everyone can be replaced." said Joe Smiddy, chancellor
emeritus of Clinch Valley College and an emeritus member of the MEOC
board of directors. "I'm sorry to tell you this is one time you
can't. No one could believe in their wildest imagination that one
person could do so much for so many people."
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