hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

January 10, 2013

Marge Brewer was one of a kind

By Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — You gotta hand it to Marge Brewer for yet another thoughtful act of kindness.

She waited until the day after Christmas to declare her passing, undoubtedly because she didn’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday.

That was Marge:Thoughtful, considerate, passionate about others and her own indelible spirit. That’s how she will be remembered.

I can count on one hand the people I most admired in this community over a lifetime of journalism. Marge would be at the head of her class. I never told her that. It would have humbled her to embarrassment.

“Oh, no, you’ve got the wrong woman,” I can hear her saying. “If we can’t help one another, then what’s the sense of living?”

Perhaps that is why she lived to age 96. Because she had a role to play and God needed a few good people around here to keep the peace.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you a week seldom went by when I didn’t get a phone call from Marge. One day, it would be about the children’s May Pole celebration she conducted for 35 consecutive years. The next day it would encompasses a trip for the elderly.

Marge played both generations against the middle. She kept all factions happy. She was a friend to those who had none and to others who had plenty.

When Marge spoke, you listened. She always had something to say, always for the good.

How she managed to have so many irons in the fire is beyond me. She sparked her own inferno of activity.

Well into her 80s, she called one day with an urgent plea, looking for some press. Marge wanted a center for the youth of Riverside. She was looking for a place where kids could come, enjoy some companionship, get homework help and develop a sense of security.

An argument could be made — why don’t they go to the Boys’ & Girls Club or the YMCA/YWCA or Girls Incorporated, places that cater to youth.

“Don’t always work that way,” Marge insisted. “In some cases, they have no way of getting there. I’m looking at a neighborhood setting for locals.”

Much as she tried, through articles that hit the paper, it never came to pass and her balloon burst. She gave it a year, maybe two, and never got the necessary funding. But she remained persistent toward her mission when others would have quit in half the time.

Whenever I saw the woman — and it was everywhere — the greeting was usually standard. Her “Brewer” name always came into play.

“Hey Marge, what’s brewin?’’

“The grounds in my coffee,” she would retort. “Too many to count.”

One time I really fouled up badly. She gave me all the information on a senior citizens trip she was planning and I associated it with another venue. They got the people, she got nothing.

The next day she was on the phone. I expected a verbal outrage. But no. Instead, it was a chuckle.

“You helped another cause,” she said. “Glad to help any way I can, even with a misprint. Goes to show we’re all human and can make mistakes.”

My favorite Marge-ism was her Thom Thumb weddings, where she got to dress up the children in bridal outfits and staged the extravaganzas at her beloved Riverside Memorial Church. The kids had a ball. And Marge was the biggest kid of them all.

I asked her why one day.

“Because if you want to stay young and vibrant, you have to surround yourself with youngsters. I’m around elderly folks all the time. It makes me feel older than I am. But I loved them all.”

When Marge received her Woman of the Year award in 1994 from the Haverhill YWCA’s Tribute to Women, it was pretty much predestined. Though the other candidates were all worthy of their tributes, Marge was the brightest star in the sky that day.

But you’d never know it. Instead of basking in her own radiance, she took the time to praise the others, acknowledging their presence and devotion to the community.

She passed the credit to everyone else while shielding her own luster.

She drove a school bus; organized trips for the mentally challenged; conducted horse shows at the stadium; followed her children and grandchildren around the sports world; organized minstrel shows; was a true ambassador of the Council on Aging; did yeoman’s work with the Masonic bodies of our city, particularly with Eastern Star and Rainbow Girls; and was involved in the Hale Hospital Auxiliary, Women’s City Club, Haverhill Women’s Club and the Penacook Place Board of Directors.

There were also the community meals she distributed and clothes to the needy. The list goes on.

She’s gone — but never forgotten. We love you, Marge!

Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.