It is with great sadness that the family of Marlene White announces her passing. Marlene slipped away peacefully on Saturday August 21 with her family by her side, following a brief battle with cancer.
A fiercely proud first generation Norwegian, Marlene was the oldest of three sisters born in 1932 in Vancouver BC. After spending the first part of her childhood in Vancouver, at 15 Marlene moved to Ontario, where she found employment and lodging with her ‘adopted Auntie’ Anne. After graduating high school, Marlene went to secretarial school, and spent the next few years working as an executive secretary, and living at the YWCA in Toronto.
In 1953, at 21, Marlene travelled alone to Norway, where she spent a memorable year living and working in Trondheim, with her father’s sister, her beloved Tante Volborg.
In her late twenties, Marlene moved back to Vancouver and began working at Eaton’s department store for one of the store managers, Harry White, a man 25 years her senior. In January 1961 they were married, and in 1963 they were delighted with the birth of their only child Shelley. Harry and Marlene both loved to travel, and in 1966, they moved their little family to New Zealand, where they spent a year travelling and working around the North Island. A year later they moved back to Vancouver, and from there to Okanagan Falls and a quieter way of life. Marlene made friends wherever she went, and soon had a full social life which centered around the OK Falls Elementary School, Volunteer Fire Department, and the Legion (Harry was a WW2 veteran and former POW).
Marlene was known to be a hard worker and willing volunteer, and had a knack for knowing when and where help was needed. She was genuine and generous to a fault, was always on the lookout for those who were struggling, and whenever possible, preferred that her help was given anonymously.
Although she was modest about her abilities, Marlene was known in OK Falls for her piano playing skills. Marlene loved a good time, and was more often than not the life of the party with her ‘honky tonk’ style of playing. She was a staunch promoter of her little town, and could usually be found at the center of any community-based event, elbow deep in any work that needed to be done. In 2006, she was awarded the Royal Canadian Legion’s Volunteer of the Year award for all of BC and The Yukon, for spearheading numerous projects and work parties, and for years tending to over 160 of the Legion’s rose bushes, which earned her the nickname of the ‘Rose Lady’. In the 50+ years she lived in OK Falls, Marlene played piano for countless funerals and community events, and for the last 25 years provided the music for the Legion Branch # 227’s Remembrance Day Ceremony. Marlene spoke from the heart and was very quick to recognize and compliment the efforts and achievements of others, while remaining very humble and modest about her own. She was known for her quick wit and sardonic sense of humour, and was someone who made good things happen.
In 1987, Shelley married her college sweetheart Gregg, and two of the biggest joys of Marlene’s life came along shortly thereafter, with the births of granddaughters Keira and Kaycie. She felt blessed to play a big part in both girls’ lives, sharing in all their ups and downs as she participated in their lives fully from the start. She was so very proud of the beautiful and accomplished women they have become.
As anyone who knew her (or even briefly met her!) was aware, Marlene was fiercely proud and vocal about her Norwegian heritage. Her greatest source of contentment and peace, however, came from the enduring love of, and support for her immediate family, and their shared commitment to each other.
Marlene is predeceased by her husband Harry, her parents Anders and Aufhild Vestgard, and her sister Verna. She will be lovingly remembered always by her daughter Shelley (Gregg), granddaughters Keira (Jordan) and Kaycie (Cam), sister Geraine (Doug) and family, and extended family members.
Marlene has found comfort through her life in her quiet but deep faith, and believed above all in the power and importance of love. She found great peace in facing her death from Isaiah 30:15 “Your strength will be in keeping calm and showing trust.”
Due to COVID restrictions, and also as per her wishes, there will be no service for Marlene at this time. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #227 to help with the good works and services they provide to Canadian servicemen and their families.