For The 61st Thanksgiving Season,
Marian Heads My List Of Blessings

Today a continuation of a Thanksgiving-season publication of a column (slightly updated each year) first printed 15 years ago.  It generated the most reaction from readers to anything I have written in more than 20 years of column writing.  (Favorable reaction, I hasten to add!)

The column, reduced a bit in length this year: 

As I count the blessings that are special to me this Thanksgiving season, it’s not hard to start my list:  Her name is Marian, and she has blessed my life these past 61 years.

Today, her right arm suspended in a pillow-like sling following her eighth major orthopedic surgical procedure (she has had several more in the past 15 years), she continues to radiate that warmth of personality and concern for others (thankfully including me!) that make her such a remarkable person.

Marian’s reaction to her long siege of surgery tells a good deal about the upbeat way she approaches life.  Her attitude is consistently positive, grateful for the fact that her serious involvement with osteoarthritis can be surgically addressed.

She has become something of a counselor to acquaintances with joint problems.  Her consistent advice, given diplomatically but clearly, is to stop limping painfully around and consult a doctor about the possibility of surgical relief.

Left-Hand-Scrambled Eggs

Marian’s resilience in the face of surgical adversity is noteworthy.  She rebounds quickly, as evidenced by the fact that on her second day home after three recent days in the hospital following rotator cuff surgery, her right arm in a sling, she served me left-hand-scrambled eggs for breakfast while trying to take charge of the allocation of our tickets for the Colorado-Nebraska football game.

(I know there are readers out there who have demonstrated—or who have loved ones who have demonstrated—courage and grace in the face of physical adversity over a period of years.  In telling Marian’s story, I would hope to indicate my admiration for all those individuals whose stories would make compelling reading if I were in a position to report them.)

Remarkable Memory For Dates Important To Others

Marian’s friends and I could cite countless examples of her genuine interest in other people, their lives and their problems.  A typical example:

Late one evening I heard Marian on the phone discussing an airline ticket reservation with a United Airlines employee in Denver.  It seemed to me the conversation was taking longer than should be necessary to make a reservation.  I figured out what had happened when I heard Marian say something like:

“Well, it’s certainly been nice taking with you.  And I hope your mother gets to feeling better real soon.”

Remarkable Lady, Remarkable Memory

Marian’s memory for names and dates—especially people-related dates like birthdays—continues to astound me after all these years.  I can walk into a cocktail party and work hard to remember the names of two or three people I’ve met, while Marian can give you the name of everyone she’s met, where they live and how many children they have.

As for her memory of birth dates, one example:  I was on a November golfing trip with the Fairfield brothers, Terry, president of the University of Nebraska Foundation, and Bill, chief executive officer of Inacom.  Marian said to be sure to wish the Fairfields a happy birthday.  She had remembered that they were born, two years apart, on the same day of the year, November 30.  (I’ll leave it to Bill or Terry to tell you which is the older.)

It is this genuine interest in others that, I believe, has led Marian to work so hard on behalf of so many civic causes dedicated to helping others—whether they be students at the University of Nebraska (Marian was the first woman and first non-Lincolnite to serve as chairman of the University of Nebraska Foundation) or recipients of the various services the American Red Cross or United Way of the Midlands provide to people in need.

Concern For Others Prompts Civic Leadership

Marian’s civic service was well summarized by Loretta Carroll of KMTV when Marian was recognized as one of the KMTV’s Women of Mid-America.  Loretta said of Marian:

“Marian Andersen…who has shown again and again that women of ability and determination can make great contributions to society.  As chairman of the National Search Committee, Marian recruited Elizabeth Dole to serve as president of the American Red Cross, and she co-founded the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of United Way.  Marian’s numerous leadership roles have brought such events as Shakespeare on the Green to thousands in our community.  If there was a glass ceiling standing in her way, Marian Andersen simply ignored it, or broke through it.”

Family Always Is First

While doing so many things with an unfailing sense of good humor and a warmth of personality and friendship based on a genuine interest in the lives and welfare of others, Marian has always placed family first—a fact especially appreciated, of course, by me and our children, Dave and Nancy.

Our family has always been her first priority.

I think you can see why my list of blessings this Thanksgiving season starts with the name Marian.

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