When I got the phone call from Cambridge city administrator Lynda Woulfe about the death of Marlys Palmer, it was quite the shock. While it was no secret she was getting up there in years, her energy and enthusiasm were still very high.
I somewhat knew Marlys before becoming editor, mostly through her involvement with the Humane Society. Since my whole family are animal lovers, we naturally tried to support the local organization. My mom would always be willing to make something for them to sell during their bake sales, and naturally we would be more than willing to buy something too. Of course, Marlys was always there so we knew that our stay would inevitably wind up taking longer thanks to friendly chit-chat.
It was also at one of those bake sales that features one of my fondest memories of her. My dad had brought our dog Mollie up to the sale in order to get her nails trimmed (this was when the bake sales were held at City Center Mall and the neighboring pet salon offered to donate part of their proceeds that day to the Humane Society).
While my dad was trying to juggle holding Mollie’s leash and paying for his bake sale purchase, Marlys offered to hold the leash. Well, all it took was one quick tug from Mollie and Marlys was almost knocked off her feet and dragged along the mall’s floor to wherever Mollie wanted to go.
True to Marlys’ nature, she didn’t get upset, laughed it off, complimented Mollie on her strength, and would proceed to retell the story on numerous occasions to me, my dad, and probably to multiple others whenever the memory of that day popped into her head.
When I started covering city council meetings, I quickly discovered Marlys ran those meetings in that same manner – with a folksy atmosphere that frequently featured stories from Cambridge’s past and sprinkled with plenty of humor.
And she always was willing to let whoever was there for a specific agenda topic have their say, even if it didn’t call for public comment. Sure, it meant that sometimes meetings would go on longer than anticipated, but that was the only way she would have it. She wanted everyone to feel welcome and at home when addressing the council.
It is also that attitude that is featured in my final memory of Marlys. During the most recent Customer Appreciation Day, I was walking back to my car after taking what I thought would be all the photos I would need. All of a sudden, I hear that distinctive voice calling out my name and there was Marlys, quickly walking over, saying I had to come and take some photos of the city’s splash pad information booth. Before I could answer, she locked her arm around mine and proceeded to drag me – much like Mollie had done to her – back to the booth where, of course, I took a few more shots, complete with her compliments about “That’s a great photo.”
As I walked away, she made sure to call out “Thanks, Triple” (her own take on my “Triple Bill” nickname).
Well, now I must begrudgingly say, “Thank you, Marlys.” Your presence in Heaven will be longer than anticipated, but I’m sure it will be filled with plenty of stories and humor as you make everyone feel as welcome as you can.
Bill Stickels III is editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at 763-689-1181 ext. 107 or firstname.lastname@example.org.