I don’t normally do this. Yet every once in a while this community loses someone who was impactful.
Every now and again I’m fortunate enough to have known them. Greater still, I’m blessed to have learned from them.
I did not know Marge Cruz, personally speaking. I was, however, fortunate to have known her socially and professionally early in to my career here at the Leader. Marge passed away last week. She was 87 years old.
I learned of her passing via text message from a dear friend. I honestly don’t recall the last time I was in Marge’s presence; I do however remember her smile as if I saw her yesterday.
Marge was a woman who was more than kind, she was welcoming, genuine, a real class act. I know this, because my path first crossed with hers when I was new to the Leader team and a “transplant.” While my last name, “Hammond” was well known by many in the community, once many learned I had no local connection and was not an “Oakdalean” well let’s just say shoulders went cold.
This was not the case with Marge. Also a Bay Area girl, she welcomed me to the community and was engaging. Oddly, when you’re the one paid to ask the questions, meeting someone like Marge can set you back a bit. I mean after all, who really cares about the reporter? Marge did.
As years passed and I remained in my front row seat of community events, the two of us would cross paths on occasion. A hug always exchanged and a five minute update on one another’s lives.
As a retired community member, Marge was the epitome of active community supporter. She loved this community and made sure to show up and support the things which she valued.
Mid-week, last week, one of Marge’s children came by the office looking for articles on her mother. Being respectful of her time, I remained at my desk as an office mate showed her around our Newpapers.com account and helped her access articles about her mother.
Breaking my silence, I spoke up as she was done and about to exit our building. I shared the obvious, condolences for the family loss, as well as my respects on how amazing I thought her mother was.
As we spoke, she shared how surprised she was with all the accomplishments and projects her mother was a part of. Confessing to either have forgotten or unaware, the daughter shared her mother said very little about all the things she worked on.
“We were taught it’s just what you do,” she said. “We knew she was involved with stuff, I just didn’t realize how much. She really loved this community.”
As we talked, we spoke about how drastically different it is now versus then. Thanks to the World Wide Web, we now not only know all that people are involved with but what they eat for breakfast or dinner or if they’re in a “life changing” boot camp. Very little seems to be left for privacy any longer, most especially acts of kindness and selflessness, by way of volunteering.
Now granted, I do understand the power of these forums and how they can indeed bring attention to causes and projects that then benefits them. It now seems rare, however, to cross the path of the active volunteer who just does their thing without pomp and circumstance.
I’m happy to share I do still know a few, their tireless dedication often leaves me both marveling as well as exhausted, yet they press on – that’s the type of human Marge Cruz was. Hearing her daughter acknowledge this was heartwarming.
“She used to always say, it’s just what we do,” her daughter shared as we discussed her mother’s love of helping and supporting others.
As the child of a selfless giver, her pride was more than obvious, as she beamed with tear filled eyes … it was heartwarming.
In short when she left the office I realized a few things: I never asked her name. I simply stated my fondness for her mother and the class act that she was. As a journalist, I will miss seeing Marge Cruz on those random occasions. I’ll miss that warm smile and her humble nature.
As a human, a mother and a community member, I remain inspired by her life and her grace in serving others. May we all take a small step back and look in on our own life and how we navigate when in service. After all at the end of the day it truly is not the days you live that matter, but the moments and memories we share with others. Thank you Marge.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.