Giving thanks for a friend: Remembering Marlon Harris.Written by John Dorsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask anyone around Toledo’s Old West End and chances are they probably have more than a few good things to say about Marlon Harris. I myself counted her among my best friends for close to a decade, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t talk about writing just this once.
When Marlon passed away at the University of Toledo Medical Center on Nov. 18, I had the natural response: feelings of grief, loss and sadness. But then I started thinking about the season. I started thinking not about loss, but about giving thanks for a friendship that was a safe harbor even in the darkest of times, even in times like this.
I first met Marlon when she was brought in as an office worker at the Collingwood Arts Center (CAC) though the Experience Works program in the summer of 2005. As anyone who has ever worked in the world of nonprofits will tell you, it can be a bit of a revolving door, and I honestly didn’t expect her to last. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While artists and administrators went out in waves, there was Marlon, taking time to get involved in the lives and careers of artists who, more often than not, had nobody else to turn to when they were having a bad day or a bad life. She was a den mother in a frat house of creativity, a stabilizing force that kept the ship afloat.
Eventually, Marlon left Experience Works and was asked to stay on at the CAC as its office manager. After the untimely death of Interim Executive Director Brian Felster in 2011, she was asked to step into the leadership role, though don’t ask me what her proper title was, as she refused to be called the executive director. I often told people who called the office, where I was serving as program director, that she was the business manager and she seemed fine with that.
Marlon and I left the CAC around the same time late last year to make way for a new administration and greener pastures of our own. Even after our time there, our friendship remained, and when she was forced to leave her home due to health concerns a few weeks ago, she moved in with former CAC resident artist and maintenance director Darcie Trame and me. It was our great honor to be by her side just one more time, just as we had been there for each other so many times in the past.
Marlon, who was raised an only child in Cleveland, was born Feb. 15, 1947. She is survived by two wonderful daughters and several grandchildren. She was a world traveler who lived in California, Atlanta and several places in between. She was an avid reader and an artist in her own right, who was active in her community volunteering on several committees. During her time at the CAC she worked on revamping the long-defunct newsletter and starting a new arts education program. I think that’s the hardest part of Marlon’s death for me, she was a creative person with plans, but unfortunately illness was two steps ahead.
A memorial event is currently being planned at the Arts Center by Marlon’s longtime friend, Office Manager Manny Quintano. Interested family and friends can contact him for more information at (419) 244-2787. The Collingwood Arts Center is located at 2413 Collingwood Blvd. directly across the street from Scott High School. Rest in peace, Marlon … I’ll see you a little bit further down the road.
John Dorsey is a widely published poet. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Tags: Atlanta, California, Cleveland, Collingwood Arts Center (CAC), maintenance director Darcie Trame, Marlon Harris, Office Manager Manny Quintano, Pushcart Prize, Scott High School, Toledo's Old West End, University of Toledo Medical Center