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Marlowe Emke

Rhody Family Funeral Home

Marlowe Emke

September 2, 1949 – December 19, 2022

How do you summarize an individual’s life in just a few words? A man who was active, full of life, funny, creative, and always left an impression on those he met. Becoming friends with many of them along the way. Marlowe was not afraid to tackle any job or activity simply because it was there in front of him. He either did very well or learned how to fake it convincingly. There was also a quiet, reserved side to Marlowe that few people witnessed. He may not have said much, but his mind would be going a mile a minute. Then he would make a comment that was three conversations ahead of everyone else.

Although Marlowe was the only boy with five sisters, he seldom felt intimidated. He simply shied away from all the female drama, yet he supported all his sisters when needed. He was a big tease… his sisters were victims of his tickling, often while he made silly faces at them. Marlowe would often make up silly nicknames, sentences, or rhymes on the spur of the moment and share them with others. Honestly, though, his sisters adored Marlowe and covered for him when he was not where he was supposed to be, doing things he should not have been doing. Rumour has it that he was once found hanging by his fingers from an upstairs bedroom window in this very building, this very funeral home… one where he could be easily seen and rescued.

Growing up, Marlowe was very athletic and not afraid to try new sports. He was the intermediate boys’ track and field champion in 1960 at Chesley Public School. In high school, he held the pole vault record for many years. Marlowe enjoyed playing volleyball, basketball, broomball, curling, hockey, golf, and downhill skiing, to name a few. In the summer his mom moved the family to Sauble Beach where he loved to swim, water ski and roller skate. His sisters gave him the nickname “crazy legs,” because he was so good. Oh, how he loved to waltz with his sisters, especially Carol and later, myself, to “Unchained Melody” or “Ebb Tide” by the Righteous Brothers. Whether the music was fast or slow, other skaters liked to follow him, trying to imitate his technique. Years later, although Marlowe hadn’t skated in years, he and I went to the last roller-skating evening at the old Hanover rink before it was torn down. Even then, he still had the moves, with people following him, possibly remembering him from the Beach.

Many of his childhood pastimes were continued well into his adult life, as well as adding a few more… like snowmobiling, poker – which he wasn’t very good at, as well as old timers’ baseball and hockey. Being agile on his feet, Marlowe was also known to use them to deflect pucks when his stick wasn’t handy. He and Leonard played many of these different sports together and were very competitive, especially later in life, particularly after Leonard learned to play golf. Sauble was where Marlowe learned his solid work ethic, which he maintained throughout his entire life. Beginning at the age of 11 or 12, he set pins at the bowling alley, worked long hours setting up and cleaning up after dances or bingo at the dance pavilion, and then ended up at the roller rink where he was the official cruiser. This always remained his all-time favourite job throughout his life.

It was also at the beach that Marlowe developed a love of working with his hands and constructing things while helping his cousin build his cottage. He often showed up with a hammer in hand and Murray soon put him to work. After the cottage was built, they worked on many other projects together, either at Murray’s or at one of our many cottages…. building additions, renovating inside and out, shingling roofs, building decks, laying cement and landscaping, just to name a few. Marlowe went on to help other family members renovate rooms, build decks, lay patio blocks, redo septic systems, all the while, quenching his thirst with the odd beverage.

When Marlowe turned sixteen, he developed a new hobby… vehicles. Years later, he sat down and listed as many of the vehicles he owned that he could remember, from his very first: a 1951 Plymouth 4 door sedan, flat head 6 in 1955 to a 2002 red Mustang convertible in 2006, where the list ended. Three of those vehicles were bought and sold on the same safety. The total was 62!! Imagine what the number would be if he had continued his list!!

Marlowe attended Humber College in Toronto where he obtained his funeral director’s license. He laughed that he had to wait until after his birthday in September to officially receive his license on paper as he was too young when school actually finished. After apprenticing at Needham Funeral Home in London, he returned to Chesley to work alongside his parents at the Emke Funeral Home. At the same time, he became involved with the Kinsmen Club of Chesley where he held several different positions, including President in 1973 – 74. Marlowe was also an active member of the Georgian Bay Funeral Service Association. He was the president of the association in 1976 – 77 and was later awarded with a plaque for his contributions to funeral service.

In April 1972, Leonard and Eloise convinced Marlowe to go on a blind date with them, and someone Eloise taught school with, a young woman named Mary Guenther. Right from the get-go, there was a real connection between us, and always a lot of laughter and fun. We spent many evenings talking on the phone, with Marlowe often standing just inside the garage door so that he could have some privacy. I quickly sensed that Marlowe would always look after me and any family we had. We were that comfortable in each other’s company. After a few dates, Marlowe told Leonard and Eloise that I was “the one.” Leonard had Eloise circle a date on the calendar but didn’t tell her why. Marlowe and I were married four months and four days after our first date, on August 25, 1972. It was only a week off from the date Eloise marked on the calendar. It is interesting to note that it took Marlowe over 50 years to tell me. Who knew he could keep secrets?

In November 1973, Marlowe and I moved to Tara and ran the funeral home and furniture store there. Just over two years later, we started our family. Becoming a parent was one of the happiest times in Marlowe’s life. Phillip was born on Tuesday, January 28, 1975, and Leanne followed on Tuesday, September 13, 1977, just a few weeks after Marlowe’s parents sold their funeral home in Chesley. In fact, I received special permission to attend their appreciation party as long as I signed back into the hospital two hours later. You couldn’t ask for better babysitters.

Family remained the one constant in Marlowe’s life that never wavered. His love for myself, Phillip, and Leanne was always present. If either of his children were upset during their infancy, Marlowe was the one who could settle them down. He even sat up beside me while I fed and changed the babies in the middle of the night. Over the years, no one was exempt from his teasing. Marlowe had pet names for his kids, and when they were learning to talk, he bypassed the 3 – 4 letter words and had them trying 3 – 4 syllable words. As you can imagine this usually ended with a lot of contagious laughter. When teenagers, the kids spent summers working at Sauble, following in their father’s footsteps. He supported them throughout their life choices, and when they were older, welcomed Phillip’s wife Lisa, and Leanne’s husband, Casey into the family with open arms.

When the grandchildren were born, he was ecstatic. Tiernan was born to Phillip and Lisa on Thursday, May 31, 2001. The youngest two were born seven years later. Leanne and Casey had Reece on Saturday, May 31, 2008, followed by Breanna, who was born Wednesday, October 1, 2008, to Phillip and Lisa. The teasing and laughter continued. Marlowe read to them, took them for rides in the wagon, made up and taught them silly ditties, complete with noises.

Their favourite…  ”Prissst… Dirty Jill.

Never washed,

and never will.

Prisst… Dirty Jill.”

Jill was our dog at the time.

Marlowe was never afraid of change or a challenge; in fact, he embraced both. He was the type of person his older sister, Eloise wrote about in her chapter in the book “Thriving on change.” When she signed Marlowe’s copy, she said, “You have always been a role model for change for all of us.” Later she wrote, “Change is never easy,” however, Marlowe could make it look like it was. When he decided to make a change, he would make a pro and con list, suggest several ways of doing it differently and then convince the rest of his family to go along with it. Marlowe and I moved 14 times, owned 4 cottages, 2 park model trailers, and then exchanged cottages for homes on wheels… a total of 9 different trailers and 4 motor homes. We always redid the houses we bought and lived in, to put our own stamp on them and after retiring, we renovated places to flip.

Jobs were no exception to change. In January 1980 Marlowe and I moved to London where Marlowe joined the staff at Needham’s again. Moving back to Chesley in 1981, Marlowe started a new career, this time in agriculture. He first took a job at Masterfeeds in Owen Sound, before moving on to manage the United Co-op in Elmwood, and then Chesley. After this he became a salesman for the Co-op, covering the areas of Kincardine, Port Elgin, and Chesley. Years later Marlowe was looking for a total change, whereby he became the manager of Bruce Area Recycling Association. This was followed by time spent at Miller Waste recycling depot in Owen Sound, where he was manager for a further five years.

In 2001, Marlowe was Lynne’s travelling companion on a flight out west to visit Carol and Rod. Marlowe had never flown before, but Lynne reassured him, telling him that she had good drugs to share if the need arose. While there, Marlowe donned coveralls with the construction “X” on his back and rubber boots. He built a flower bed in Carol’s front yard, helped Rod and Jason with their chores, even assisting them and a group of neighbours, brand cattle. He thoroughly enjoyed these jobs, oblivious to the neighbours who wanted to know who the highway man was.

After his older sister Eloise became sick with cancer for the second time, Marlowe joined the staff at Calhoun Agri Services, where he spent endless lunch hours walking with Leonard and just being available wherever he was needed. Marlowe decided to retire early, it was the summer before he turned 60. He finished up his long career by cutting grass at Fisherman’s Cove RV Park, where together with myself we owned a park model on the lake. It was here that he enjoyed boating and fishing. After driving to his favourite fishing spot and fishing for half an hour, Marlowe would often take a nap on the centre seat of the boat until I was ready to quit.

Marlowe wasn’t feeling well in the summer of 2009, but it wasn’t until Thanksgiving Friday that he was diagnosed with kidney failure caused by multiple myeloma, a disease that was not curable, but treatable. After spending two days in the Walkerton Hospital because there was no bed available in London, Marlowe got a spot at Victoria Hospital in London Thanksgiving Monday. There he had top doctors caring for him. The family also found out that Dr. Creighton, at the Walkerton Hospital had been in constant touch with London specialists, and that he kept Marlowe alive by closely following Dr. Blake’s advice. London told us that Marlowe should have been comatose and dead before he had even gotten to London.

Having never been sick his whole life, it truly was a “deer in the headlights” scenario for Marlowe and the entire family. His grandchildren were very young when he first took ill. Tiernan was eight, and Reece and Breanna were still babies, just learning to talk. I remember how difficult it was for them to understand Marlowe’s illnesses, let alone explain what was going on to other family members. When Reece was a little older, he asked why Grandma and Grandpa Emke came to stay over only when Grandpa had to go to the hospital. Immediately, Marlowe started hemodialysis three days a week and regular chemo treatments, leading up to a stem cell transplant in March of 2010. Although he spent almost a month in isolation and several months recuperating, it was worth it. He was in remission for six and a half years before needing any further chemo treatments. Throughout all that, the dialysis remained three days a week but by then Marlowe and I were travelling to Owen Sound for his dialysis and a few months later, to Hanover Hospital, therefore not spending as much time on the road.

It was during this period in his life that Marlowe’s quiet personality trait really came to the surface. He often didn’t talk about his illnesses unless someone asked and then he didn’t get into specifics. In June 2011, he switched to peritoneal dialysis which he did every night at home while he slept. That changed everything. Besides feeling unbelievably better, we were better able to enjoy our cottage, and/or trailers, simply by taking his machine and supplies with us. We even drove to Florida nine times. We had our social life back and we even flew out west to stay with Carol and Rod, celebrating his 65th birthday and an anniversary while there. All this was possible by sending an order of supplies to a destination ahead of our arrival date. Amazing!

At the end of 2016, after coming out of remission and on a new chemo regime, Marlowe decided that he  as uncomfortable crossing the border again. Not to be deterred, he found a new place on the internet to replace Florida. We bought a place north of Goderich, in Meneset, by the lake to use as a cottage, but moved there within six months, and quickly became very busy with their activity group. When participating in activities together or with a group, Marlowe would start counting if I took longer than he thought I should to take my turn. Marlowe was at the clubhouse at least once a day, playing darts, pool, poker, and helping with Saturday morning coffee. Both of us enjoyed the jammers and at age 68, with a lot of encouragement, Marlowe learned to play the guitar which he attacked with the same enthusiasm as everything else he attempted in life. Even when camping Marlowe pulled out the guitar and practised, often convincing other jammers to join him in entertaining the other campers with their music.

It was at Meneset that Marlowe became a director of the recreation committee. He was also a D.J. for the dances, organized Italian dinners and dances, and Friday afternoon “open” pool games to anyone who wanted to come. This eventually grew to include darts, cards, and board games. Everything was run by volunteers and Marlowe did so with much enthusiasm and humour. When it was his turn to chair Saturday morning coffee, he often included poems that he composed at the clubhouse just before people arrived. Meneset friends have since told me that they think of Marlowe often and are still reading his poetry at coffee klatch Saturday mornings or including them in the monthly newsletter.

Music played a major part in our years together. I told Marlowe that he had “magic feet.” Along with being accomplished on four wheels, he was awesome on the dance floor, teaching me a variety of different types of dances and steps, such as waltzing, “two step,” jive, and the polka, which he said he learned from his mother. Always the tease, Marlowe waited until I was comfortable following his steps, then he would change the footwork, knowing it would throw me off and then he would just smile. Like everything else, our favourite song would change over the years. From “Earth Angel” by the Vogues, “Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh, “Behind Closed Doors” by the Silver Fox, to “Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis. “Remember When” by Alan Jackson was the theme for the first dance Marlowe Dee Jayed at, which was 50’s and 60’s music.

Marlowe enjoyed Dee Jaying many dances after that, each one with a different theme and playlist. He started each dance with the instrumental “Telestar” by the Toronadoes and ended with “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight” by the Spaniels. It was “Fox on the Run” by “The Good Brothers” that showcased Marlowe’s fancy polka footwork, so it became a staple at every dance, including family weddings. But the one song that resonated with us the most and never changed was one we heard on the radio on our first road trip to Florida. The song was “Keeper of the Stars” by Tracy Bird, and it best described our relationship.

With covid, life changed drastically for everyone. Isolation and television often filled our days, but Marlowe liked to plan routines for us, to give us some normalcy and provide us something to look forward to. Mornings often started with breakfast at Timmy’s when the drive thru opened. In the afternoons we spent time at the Goderich harbour, watching the grain and salt boats load or unload, with many other vehicles doing the same. By 8 p.m. it was time for the TV to be switched to the easy listening channel and the Scrabble board to come out. These routines continued even when restrictions lightened, except for the times when Marlowe was in hospital.  It was at this time that Marlowe realized how important it was to keep in touch with family. He began phoning his children and siblings regularly and resurrected the dying art of writing letters and telling his siblings that they had to write back. However, with his kids and grandchildren, he needed to hear their voices and tell them how important they were to him. It was his “fix”, as it really lifted his spirits, and was something that he continued after restrictions eased. Even after things returned to a new normal, we had to be very cautious. When we did get together with family, it was in a garage, or on a deck, or on the front lawn with folding chairs, which were always kept in the back of our vehicle.

From an early age and throughout his entire life Marlowe maintained his sense of humour. Often when he felt the need to fill in gaps in conversation, or when someone was watching him, or wanting to take his picture, he would say or do something funny. Nieces and nephews fondly recall the strange sandwiches he made – peanut butter, lettuce, salt, and pepper – saying “You’ve gotta try this! It’s so good.” Another time, while in Florida, Marlowe decided to make lunch for his and Leonard’s golf game the following day. Instead of Leonard’s staple… ham and cheese, he bit into a cheese and onion sandwich. That was the first and ONLY time that Marlowe made Leonard’s lunch. Lol!

His antics often made him the life of the party or dance. He danced with everyone, laughing, and never stopping until the night was over. At family weddings, his sisters would put Marlowe in the middle and all the female relatives, including his mother, Lenore, danced around him, especially when “YMCA” or “We are Family” played. Last summer, we celebrated 50 years of marriage. Friends and family were invited to an afternoon tea and later, siblings from both sides of our big families remained with us for a wonderful, catered turkey dinner where the reminiscing and laughs continued. It was truly amazing, and although Marlowe never let on, he was physically and emotionally worn out by the time the day ended. It took him two days to recover. This was another example of the quiet, reserved side to Marlowe that few people witnessed.

 Throughout our 50 years of marriage, I liked to refer to the changes and challenges as “adventures” and we adapted as priorities changed in our lives. Marlowe tackled each one the same… to the best of his ability, with enthusiasm and passion. Whenever anything needed to be done, Marlowe always stepped up to the plate and gave the job, or activity his all. He encouraged me to become less of a spectator and more of a participant. He taught me how to play golf, pool, darts, curling, and different dances, including the polka. He also successfully talked me into joining women’s activities… like golf, pool, darts, helping with functions at the club house, and even ballroom and line dancing.

Through all the ups and downs, the different infections, and mega antibiotics, the operations, the hospital stays, Marlowe tried very hard to stay positive. During the thirteen years that he had been sick, he went into remission four times, which was unusual. He always impressed me with how he led such a full life with the cards he was dealt. The good years way outnumbered the bad. Carol said that her fondest memory of Marlowe was his strength and the way he carried on during his long illness. He continued to care for his family, his parents, and his siblings throughout those years on both good days and not so good days.

Marlowe’s wit, charm and respect for others never dampened. Even in the hospital, he asked all the nurses their names and always gave them a compliment, thanking them for their care. After getting his hair and body washed from the comfort of his bed, he told everyone that he looked “debonair.” Marlowe truly enjoyed the visits and phone calls he received while there. When he grew tired, he would simply say, “I’m going to have a nap.” Our families were very fortunate in that we all got quality time to spend with Marlowe and to say our goodbyes.

Marlowe continued to show his true colours right up until the end. It was the weekend prior to his passing, and he was always checking out what everyone else was eating, zeroing in on the junk food. “What have you got there?” Of course, Phillip and Leanne indulged his every whim providing him with Cheetos, peanuts, almonds, sun chips, corn nuts and any drink he desired. None of it was on his diet, but we could hear him chowing down throughout much of the day and most of the night, never afraid to wake someone up to hand him something.

In his final days, Marlowe was sitting quietly at the side of the bed, when we heard him humming. This was something we could never recall him ever doing before. When asked about it, he didn’t even realize he was doing it, didn’t know what the tune was and couldn’t repeat it, so obviously, he was making it up as he went along. This was the only hospital stay that Marlowe was settled and at peace. Marlowe passed away at London Health Sciences Centre – Victoria Hospital, surrounded by his family, on Monday, December 19, 2022, in his 74th year.

Beloved husband of Mary (Guenther). Loving father of Phillip (Lisa) of Hanover and Leanne (Casey) Cox of Thorndale. Cherished grandfather of Tiernan and Breanna Emke and Reece Cox. Marlowe will be dearly missed by his sisters, Lynne (Bob) Hammond and Heather (Rick) Grypstra, all of Byron, Carol (Rod) Calhoun of Swallwell, Alberta, Leverne (Larry) Misch of Port Elgin, and brother-in-law Leonard Calhoun (Pat Boyd) of Hanover as well as their families. He was predeceased by his sister Eloise Calhoun, and his parents Vernon and Lenore (McKerroll) Emke.

A final message from our family….

Marlowe, — you left us the way you wanted to leave, on your own terms. We all think of you often, we all miss you dearly. Your sense of humour, teasing ways, your respect for, and willingness to help others and, especially, your unconditional love, will be missed by all of us.

Although you are no longer with us, it is comforting to know that you left us with wonderful memories and the loving character traits that you passed on to your children and grandchildren. You are probably having wonderful visits with your grandma and grandpa Emke, catching up with Eloise, polkaing with your mom in exchange for a boiled raisin cake, having lively conversations with your dad, helping Aunt Glenna move furniture, and getting caught up on Uncle Bert’s jokes.

If you meet up with my (Mary’s) mom, simply smile and nod your head if she cheats at cards or calls you “Carmen.”

Give everyone a big hug from all of us, but, above all, embrace your new adventure.

This reflection of Marlowe’s life was written with love by Mary and their family!

Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Thursday, May 11, 2023, from 6 – 8 p.m., where a memorial service honouring Marlowe’s life will be held on Friday, May 12, 2023, at 1 p.m. Inurnment in Walkerton Cemetery. A recording of Marlowe’s service will be available on the funeral home website in the days following.

Memorial donations to Saugeen Hospice Inc., or the London Health Sciences Foundation in support of Westmount Kidney Care Centre or London Regional Cancer Program (please make cheques payable to London Health Sciences Foundation) would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.

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