By MADDY VITALE
Marlene McHale was known as “granny” to her many grandkids. To the community, she was known as a kind woman who was instrumental in the success of Sea Isle City’s Garden Club.
Not only was she a founding member who remained active on the Garden Club since the 1980s, but she also served as its president for seven or eight years, her husband and former Mayor Mike McHale said Saturday.
Marlene McHale passed away in March of complications from ALS. She was 75.
In her memory, the Garden Club and the Sea Isle Environmental Commission got together and decided to dedicate two crepe myrtle trees to be planted at the library at noon on Oct. 4.
Typically planting ceremonies are held on Arbor Day in April. However, amid COVID-19 restrictions, the date was postponed.
Instead, a new and special date was scheduled.
“It will be on her birthday, Oct 4,” Annette Lombardo, the Environmental Commission chairwoman, said of the ceremony honoring Marlene McHale. “There will be a few speakers and her grandchildren will sing her favorite song, Gentle Woman.”
Mike McHale, who was married to Marlene for 49 years, noted that their grandchildren also sang the song at her funeral.
McHale explained that his wife was always in the garden, always loved flowers and relished the vegetable garden in the couple’s back yard in Sea Isle.
“She always liked flowers,” he said. “In fact, we had ‘granny’s garden.’ The kids would pick through granny’s garden. She liked going out with the grandkids and picking the tomatoes, but she always liked flowers.”
But what grew out of a backyard garden was a love of beautifying the city.
“The crepe myrtles flower every summer. They are hearty. Hopefully, they will flower in the summer in memory of Marlene,” McHale said. “She always wanted to enhance the city and I think, even in her memory, the plantings will help enhance our town.”
The McHales, along with other dedicated residents, decided to make it their mission to help beautify the community by planting flowers along JFK Boulevard.
That is how the Garden Club came about.
“A group of us decided to plant flowers in the city, so we raised money, planted flowers and the city started taking over the planting,” McHale said.
He expressed his respect for his wife’s passion.
“She was so dedicated to the Garden Club. She had monthly meetings from September to May and loved scheduling the speakers,” he said. “She was good at it and she would follow up and get creative people to talk. It turned out to be mostly women and they socialized together and had food. They had a good time together.”
The Garden Club continues to be active with Councilwoman Mary Tighe at the helm, along with other longtime members.
But Marlene McHale will forever be one of the driving forces, one of the handful who created the Garden Club so many years ago.
As for Marlene’s favorite flower, her husband quickly replied.
“It was roses and now everyone in our family has a garden out back for Marlene,” McHale said. “They have it in mommy’s memory.”