By MADDY VITALE
Marlene McHale, a founder of Sea Isle City’s Garden Club and longtime community volunteer, was remembered as a gentle, kind, loving woman who dedicated her life to her family, her friends and her community.
On Sunday afternoon, family members and others gathered together for a tree-dedication ceremony in her honor at the Sea Isle Library.
Those who knew Marlene came to honor and remember a woman on what would have been her 76th birthday. She left a legacy behind of doing good for others.
Two crepe myrtles newly planted outside the library at 4800 Central Ave. and a plaque serve as a memorial to Marlene.
She passed away in March of complications from ALS at the age of 75.
“She was a beautiful young lady. We danced fast and slow and after that she took my hand. A year and a half later we were married,” Marlene’s husband, Mike McHale, a former Sea Isle mayor, recalled of when the couple first met.
The McHales, who were married for 50 years, moved to their vacation home in Sea Isle at Marlene’s urging, Mike told the crowd.
He spoke of how his wife thought Sea Isle was a special place where they should settle down and make it their full-time home.
Marlene enjoyed being involved in the Garden Club and an active member of the community, Mike said.
“She loved calling different speakers to come to the Garden Club for the monthly meetings. She enjoyed it very much. She took a lot of pride in the Garden Club,” he noted.
But most of all, she lived for her family. Holidays at grandpa and “granny’s” as the grandchildren called Marlene, were the most special to Marlene, Mike told the audience.
“She put time and effort into our children and grandkids. They were her life. She loved her grandkids and children and Sea Isle,” he said as his voice cracked with emotion.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio and City Council members J.B. Feeley and Mary Tighe were among the dignitaries who came out for the ceremony.
Members of the Historical Society, Garden Club and Environmental Commission also were in attendance and spoke of Marlene.
Environmental Commission Chairwoman Annette Lombardo said of Marlene, “Marlene really loved the environment.”
Lombardo added that she hoped Marlene was watching over the ceremony.
Abby Powell, president of the Historical Museum, called Marlene a “beautiful, loved woman” and a “devoted wife, mother and granny.”
Powell also noted that Marlene left an imprint on history.
“Marlene embraced Sea Isle. She always worked very hard to bring the Garden Club history to the museum,” Powell told the audience. “Happy birthday in heaven, Marlene.”
At the end of the program, some of the McHales’ grandchildren sang in honor of their granny.
The song was: “Hail Mary/Gentle Woman.”