|Jan and Merlene|
During that time, my mom would also come in with me on occasion after hours and assist me in making some set pieces for stage productions. Often we'd all sit around and chat as well as Merlene's mom Verna (who also left us way too soon of cancer), and I really admired the way everyone was treated like a family. Husband Jan would often roll in, kids in tow, and help close up too. Of course, as the kids got old enough, they also joined their extended theatre 'family".
|Spotlighters do songs from Rent - Int Day Erad Poverty|
My son who'd never acted a day in his life and is terrified of people and crowds, played a lead role, "Daddy Warbucks", and was unbelievable. Only trust in Merlene and her staff could have done that
|International Day for the Eradication of Poverty|
|Spotlight's " Voice Impact Project" entertains community|
She never asked for anything and never said no.
But times were tough too, and Merlene silently struggled with holding on to the theatre / building - the theatre named in honour of her father - time and again passed over for grants - first having to give up half the location and finally moving to another, losing the home base stage, lighting booth, and all the fixings they had there. This likely would have defeated most people, but when I ran into her again and found out what had happened, Merlene was completely upbeat about it, focusing on the positives - like less pressure to pay for a building full time wherein now they could rent locations for productions but hold rehearsals and classes in a smaller suitable locations. Later on I believe she created a new partnership for the school that still contained the word Spotlight, Arts Spotlight Theatre, still finding away to keep it going.
|Merlene's dedication was felt beyond the stage|
When she heard about our dilemma with the road hockey event, Merlene offered to "piggy back' us on her grant through a 'fitness element" and adjust it to include us. The timing was wrong for it to work, but just the fact she would offer spoke volumes to me about the type of person she was. Rare is too common a word to describe her. It was at that time I think she had told me she had cancer and also told me she was very glad to have got to know me and that she really respected me. At the time I wasn't thinking cancer as in, "can kill you" cancer, and just blew it off as Merlene being nice as usual, but in reflection, she may have known that could be the last time she'd speak with me and she wanted to tell me. I bet she did that to a lot of people she knows. Always thinking of others.
I can't imagine the pain her husband Jan and the kids are going through right now, but as I try and see through my tears as I write this, just know that you were all blessed to have had her in your lives as long as you did, and that she will always be with you everywhere you look in this community. Be strong and take the lessons she gave about selflessness and sacrifice and live your lives as if she's watching... because she is.
I'm sure you will also see an arts award created in Merlene's honour, because it's now on my radar, and, in her "living life", I don't feel Merlene got the true accolades and community recognition she deserved, always willing to let others get, and quietly accept being passed over because others were deserving...Well no one is more deserving Merlene. No one. Rest in Peace.
A family fund for the family has been set up at this link for donations.