“I always wanted to go into the mission field. “ says Marion Whitermore with a shaky voice that does not reveal the strength within. So when she found a husband that had the same goals, it felt like marrying the man of her dreams. Together they spent 5 years at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada before serving in Trinidad and Tobago. “We had a good ministry there for almost 10 years. But we didn’t take vacations and there was a lot of pressure on the field. I went into a deep depression.”
When they called Dr Norm Loux from Penn Foundation, his response was, “…come home and we’ll see what we can do for Marion.” The plan was for Marion to be home for a month and return to Trinidad, but “it didn’t work that way. When one member of the family is ill, the entire family is ill.” Soon her husband returned to Pennsylvania with their 2 boys and took on a pastorate position.
For the next 10 years, Marion fulfilled the role of pastor’s wife and was the picture of graciousness and immaculate housekeeping. No one knew the internal tumult she was experiencing. When her husband left her in 1972, she continued her healing process with Penn Foundation. “After 27 years of marriage, it broke up. I was alone. Those were hard years.” She provided income for her family by working at Strawbridge’s or other odd jobs while helping to establish a daycare program at her church. She had started nurse’s training after high school but never finished due to her being needed at home after her father’s death. “I helped my mother put my brother through college.” Her brother is now a professor at Bluffton College, but Marion never earned a degree.
So what held her steady? “I kept going to church.” In 1972, divorce was uncommon and the people at Grace Mennonite Church didn’t know what to say to her. She often felt awkward and took to worshipping from the balcony. After a few years, she joined the service at the lower level and eventually even taught Sunday school , Bible studies and served as a deacon.
Over the years, Marion has experienced some major setbacks in her health, such as breast cancer, melanoma, and heart disease. But she watched her daughter and two sons graduate from high school and develop careers in education, sales and pharmacy. Then at 82 years of age, “I had a bad fall and I couldn’t get up. I knew I needed to get some help.” Her daughter looked into moving her into personal care at a retirement community. It was a precarious time for her and her family, but they persisted amidst all the persons that told Marion they had no room in their retirement community at the moment. But Rick Kratz (Marion calls him “precious”) from Souderton Mennonite Homes said “Sure, we’re interested in her. Bring her in!” It all happened very quickly and before Marion knew it, she was in a beautiful apartment in the personal care section at SMH. “I had a nice apartment in Lansdale, but it was not hard to move. I love the people here. One of the aides brought me flowers today. This is the most wonderful place I know.”