“BT Gals” Honor Former Watertown Nurse/Volunteer in Rainbow's New Memorial Garden
By Kenyon Kemnitz
Marian Moran’s family and friends can’t remember all the places where she has volunteered over the years. The list only seems to keep getting longer. You would probably need more than both hands and feet to count all the places. Marian embodied what it means to be a true humanitarian. Many would call her a volunteer extraordinaire.
Marian spent 31 years working as a Public Health Nurse for the City of Watertown. She visited area schools to provide health education, wellness programs, and vision screenings. Kelli DeCoto remembers being a kindergartner at Schurz Elementary School when she met Marian for the first time.
“Marian’s the first one who discovered a problem with my right eye and told my parents,” said DeCoto, Aquatics and Rec Manager for the City of Watertown. “She likely prevented me from going blind. I didn’t like her right away because I thought she was responsible for me suddenly having to wear glasses and an eye patch for a while. But she helped adjust my eye patch or put a new one on during the school day and took the time to make sure my eyelashes weren’t in my eye. She won me over after that.”
Marian also coordinated vaccination clinics, gave shots, and made home visits for new babies and people with other medical needs.
“She was always willing to help people,” said her son, Jay Moran. “I never heard her say no to anybody. If a friend wasn’t doing well and they liked a certain bread, she would take them a loaf.”
Marian had a full schedule, but she also worked as a part-time nurse at Beverly Terrace (now Bedrock Watertown Health Care Center) every other weekend and filled in during the week. That’s where she met Jill Schmitz and developed several close friendships with other fellow employees.
“She came to me when she had issues with the computer or automated time clock, and we just formed a really neat bond,” said Schmitz. “Marian kind of came across as a grouchy lady. But once you got to know her, she was just a beautiful person inside.”
Pictured from left to right are the "BT Girls": Lori Krause, Bethany Mahan, Susan Fendt, Tara Brennan, Donna Splittgerber, Marian Moran, and Jill Schmitz.
Even after Marian retired, she was always doing something and on the move. She volunteered at the Watertown Food Pantry and was involved with the city’s Meals on Wheels program since its initial launch in June 1972, including delivering the meals. Marian also worked part time at the clinic of the late Dr. Moe Chin, was a fixture at the polls on Election Day, and helped do taxes for people at the Senior Center.
“Every year they changed the tax software or something too, and Mom wasn’t much of a computer person,” Moran said. “But she didn’t let that stop her.”
Marian became a Rainbow Hospice Care volunteer in October 1999, mostly volunteering with Your Friends in Action, providing transportation and shopping for non-hospice patients who needed some extra assistance.
Cathy Egan, a fellow Rainbow volunteer, recalls her first interaction with Marian over 40 years ago.
“When my special needs daughter, Annie, was six-years-old she couldn’t walk, so Marian went and found the cutest little wheelchair you ever saw and brought it to our house,” said Egan.
Marian was very involved with her church and served on the St. Bernard’s Church Cemetery Board. Cathy connected more with Marian when both helped at many church functions and gatherings. That’s where she discovered Marian’s entertaining personality.
“If you didn’t know her well, you’d think she was kind of crabby, but she was so hilarious and a great soul,” Egan said.
When Marian wasn’t volunteering, she was helping people in other ways, including through prayer.
“If I knew someone that needed a prayer, I’d always call her and say ‘Marian, could you please pray for this person,” Schmitz said. “And she wouldn’t hesitate.”
You could also find Marian volunteering at the hospital (Watertown Regional Medical Center), giving communion to people at Marquardt Village, and working the first aid tent during Watertown’s annual Riverfest celebration. She was also a regular at the Watertown Public Library and would volunteer at their annual book sale.
“Marian would help with setup and work during the sale hours,” said Peg Checkai, Director of Watertown Public Library. “She did this for many years, probably 10-15…if not more.”
“We had this routine where I started calling her at 6:30 every night to talk and I’d ask, ‘what did you do today?’ Moran said. Mom would say, ‘Oh, not much,’ and I knew a big list was coming. She’d say, ‘I went to the food pantry, then counted money at the church, and delivered meals.’ To her, that was a slow day.”
Marian never wanted to take any credit for any of her good deeds or acts of kindness and often shied away from being in the spotlight.
But In 2013, she received a much-deserved Alfred and Helen Krahn Citizenship Award for all the work she did in the Watertown community.
“I think she was happy about it, but also not happy,” Moran said. “She didn’t want the recognition, and that was recognition. That’s who she was, but I think she got something out of everything she did internally.”
Marian receiving her award.
She might not have known it, but Marian also served as an inspiration for others to volunteer and give back their time and energy to worthy causes and organizations.
“Everywhere you went, there she was,” Egan said. “She did everything. She was a role model for the rest of us. You’d think wow, she’s so active and if she can do it, so can I,” Egan said.
When Marian’s health declined before Christmas 2021, she and her family decided that she should receive care at the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center (IPC) during her final days.
An outpouring of love and support was evident during Marian’s stay at the IPC, with several family members and friends stopping in for a visit. Jill and Tara Brennan, another friend of Marian’s, came to see her often. Her son Jay spent every day and night with his mom at her bedside.
A special moment was when Jill and Tara joined in with Jay to sing Silent Night to Marian.
“We could just tell that she could hear us, and Jay sang beautifully,” Schmitz said. “It’s something we’ll always remember.”
Jay, who works as a musician, also played his guitar, and sang some of his mom’s other favorite songs to her, like “I Say a Little Prayer,” which brought her peace and comfort.
“I think she liked when I would sing to her room at the inpatient center, and I tried to play the songs she liked,” Moran said.
Marian with her son Jay Moran.
Marian passed away peacefully on the morning of December 28, 2021. Jill immediately thought about a way she could honor a great woman who did so much for her community and anyone who needed a helping hand. Rainbow Hospice Care had just unveiled its new outdoor memorial and brick campaign earlier that month.
Without hesitation, Jill, and some of Marian’s other friends (Tara Brennan, Donna Splittgerber, Susan Fendt, Lori Krause, Bethany Mahan) during her Beverly Terrace days agreed to purchase a brick outside the IPC. It reads “In Memory of *Marian Moran* From BT Gals.”
“I just felt that there was some way we had to do something in Marian’s name and for Rainbow,” Schmitz said. “She tugged at my heart and was so giving and caring. I’ve loved her since I worked with her, and I miss her dearly.”
During an emotional time, Jill and Jay were happy with the quality-of-care Marian received at the inpatient center during a busy holiday season.
“Sometimes I had tears because I was so sad, and the nurses would come and put their arm around me,” Schmitz said. “They were just the greatest and treated us so nicely. That was my first experience with Rainbow Hospice Care, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it was.”
Marian will always be her son’s hero. And Jay will use some of his inheritance money to create a Madison College nursing scholarship in his mom’s name, hoping to inspire the next generation of nursing leaders.
“At her service, a bunch of nurses were there, and it was the same story,” Moran said. ‘Your mom was so great and helpful, and we learned so much from her.’ “I still talk to her. My mom was one of the best. I’m trying to honor her in the best ways I can.”
Many people around Watertown remember Marian and can share wonderful stories and memories about her. Just like she touched the lives of so many people and organizations through her generosity and kind spirit and left a lasting impact, Marian will now always have a lasting imprint with her brick at the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center.