College Graduate Finds Her Calling Working With the Elderly

The French love a celebration; yet, university students receive their degree through the mail. However in the U.S.A., graduation is a rights of passage, a moment in time to be marked by celebration. And it should be!

The graduate with proud parents & sis

The graduate with proud parents & sis

We danced in the streets when my oldest niece walked last Saturday. Family scattered across the Midwest applauded her efforts. She not only received her B.S. of Science degree from University of Wisconsin- Stout, but she graduated with Cum Laude Honors. (G.P.A. of at least 3.5)

School was more difficult for Marie. Like for me, math was a struggle, but she is gifted in people skills. She lights up a room with her smile, can converse with a recluse and bring laughter to the lips of dour faced octogenarian. Marie has a knack of making older people feel appreciated. Not everyone is capable of working with senior citizens, as Marie instinctively knows, “The elderly love people that are fun, entertaining, creative; someone that can make them feel young and capable of doing things.”

“It all started when I was a child, going to work with my mom, who was a recreational therapist in care centers. I also always loved hanging out with my 3 grandparents. Two years ago, my roommate helped me get a job where she worked at Solomon Hill Residential Care and I fell in love with the 4 elderly residents. I knew this right away; this was my calling.”

Marie, a high-spirited, spunky gal, has her dad’s Carlson smile and charisma, and her mom’s McKinzie resiliency and sensitivity. That same perseverance that led her to throw tantrums as a toddler and run cross country as a teen, also made her determined to complete extra requirements in college and never give up when faced with obstacles.

“Every year had its own challenges. Freshman year was transitioning away from living at home. Sophomore year, Pops had a heart attack and surgery; it was impossible to concentrate on school. Junior year, I learned how to handle the death of two favorite residents, then attended summer school, working 2 jobs and living in a beat-up old house with terrible landlords. Senior year was the best year ever! Now the hardest part is leaving my roommates and best friends and the place I’ve called home the past 4 years. “

All along, Marie matured with every setback and gained a better understanding of herself.

“In college, I learned I am a good student. In high school, the classes were boring, teachers didn’t care so much and I didn’t like my subjects. At Stout, the professors CARED about me.  And I LOVED going to class, having a say in discussions, and learning what I’m passionate about. The biggest thing I learned is that it takes a special person to care for elderly.”

Last Saturday, Marie beamed as she announced, “graduation is best day of my life!” After the ceremony, the celebration ended in typical Wisconsin fashion at Pickles, a local college bar, where family and friends of the housemates toasted over Wisconsin’s finest brew.

partying in The Pickles

partying in The Pickles

Then 48 hours later, without missing a beat, the new grad faced the real world as she held her mom’s hand in the hospital while waiting for doctors to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor from her dad’s thyroid.

Next step, Marie will be saving up to go to graduate school for a master’s in Occupational Therapy. Like so many college coeds, she faces the uncertainty of a diminishing job market during economic hard times. But there will always be work for my niece. With society growing older, we need more Maries to lighten up our dark days of aging.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.


  1. You wrote another lovely tribute to another loved one, Pat! Marie’s smile has been contagious since she was a babe, and has contributed so much already to making this world a better place. I agree we need more Marie’s and look forward to her future contributions.

  2. Pat,

    It is so nice to “meet” Marie through your words and her pictures and to start my day with such an uplifting story. Her smile jumps out at me and warms my spirit. Mostly, it feels so comforting to know Marie will be out in the world touching elderly hearts and souls and making a positive difference. It must be a family trait. 🙂 Shine on,Marie!

    • Thanks Kathy. Yes, Marie has a soft and sassy gifted way of energizing the elderly with her lively spirit. I am sure you must have that trait too in nursing to get grouchy patients to comply with the doctor’s orders!

  3. What a delight to read such an upbeat story. And you are right, she won’t ever lack for work. In addition to sheer demographics, I doubt many people are specializing in fields related to gerontology. I hope she makes tons of money, feels great job satisfaction and experiences lifetime job security! She sounds like a wonderful person.

  4. That’s “our girl”! It has been so much fun watching her grow up to be such a charming, capable young lady. Thanks, Pat for capturing it in words!

  5. Congratuations to Marie and to her parents who surely played a huge role in helping shape who she is today. I feel better just knowing that there are Maries out there who love and care about the elderly and can help them live out their last days in joy and with dignity. We need MORE Maries in this world!
    Wishing her the best and brightest future as she goes forward in fulfilling her dreams.

    • Thanks Tina…I will pass on your kind words…unless you will be coming to the land of lakes and trees this summer to see your own Minna-so-tan and you can tell her in person!

  6. The world always needs more Maries! And how delightful to learn about a young person with a calling. Thank you for telling us about her!

  7. There is no doubt about it~ Marie truly has a gift for working with people, especially the elderly. I have watched her in action….and her warmth, patience, encouragement and loving concern have already touched the hearts of so many people she has come in contact with. I know she will continue to make an important difference in the lives of others through her chosen career. I was happy to be able to celebrate in person during her graduation weekend and am proud to be the auntie to such a special young lady.

  8. Bravo for Marie! You’re right Pat, we so need more caring people working with the elderly & how they do like to have fun!


  9. sis,
    Who is this Marie?? ha! You describe her to a tee! We are so proud of her but realize she didn’t get where she is today without her whole family (Carlson’s and McKinzie’s) influencing her to give back! One of my favorite blogs…thanks for putting into words what we feel as proud parents to a special daughter.

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