Monday, October 20, 2014

Montco's Marge Cesare keeps 'Hope Afloat'

     Marge Cesare, first deputy of Montgomery County's Jury Selection Board, will be celebrating life and raising awareness about breast cancer when she participates in the 2014 International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission (IBCPC) Dragon Boat Festival in Florida later this week. Cesare, 62, who has worked for the jury board 13 years, is a member of the Philadelphia-based dragon boat team, "Hope Afloat USA."
     "I'm a 14-year breast cancer survivor and I joined this team two years ago. It's the best move I ever made, actually. The camaraderie there, everyone on the boat is a breast cancer survivor, so there is a lot of understanding," Cesare said as she prepared to head to the Sarasota area on Oct. 24 to take part in the competition. "The people are beautiful people."
     Cesare said a relative who also is on the team approached her two years ago and said, "You've got to try this."
     "I tried it and instantly loved it," said Cesare, who has competed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont with the team, one of several that represent Philadelphia. "We were in five races this year and took home a medal in every race."
     The team, last month, won a Gold Medal in Cape May at the Cape May Dragon Boat Festival.
     Cesare, one of 20 paddlers on the boat, said she enjoys being on the water and the thrill of the competition.
     "Oh, it's a rush. It's just a rush," Cesare, of West Norriton, smiled brightly. "You're nervous once you first get out there. Once you start, you're so in the zone you can't hear anything around you except the drummer on the boat telling you what to do. It's exciting and the adrenalin is flowing."
Marge Cesare, first deputy of Montgomery County Jury Selection Board, wearing her team jacket.
Photo courtesy of Marge Cesare
     With the competition comes a lot of personal fulfillment, Cesare said.
     "You just feel so honored to be on a team like this, so lucky to be on a team like this and have these friends," said Cesare, a mother of two and grandmother of four. "You grow to love these people. They become your second family. I'm so humbled being on that team."
     About 3,000 breast cancer survivors and supporters from all over the world are expected to participate in the event, according to organizers. The festival marks the first time that international teams have competed in the U.S. Teams from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy and New Zealand are expected to participate in the event.
     "Our team is excited this event is being held in the USA and we are eager to head to Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota to paddle," Peg Schofield, president of the group, said in a news release. "Being part of this world-class event at a world-class rowing venue is simply joyful. It enables us all to put our fears behind us and paddle forward to celebrate life."
     The festival kicks off Friday, Oct. 24, with pre-race events that will include training sessions, educational forums and social activities focusing on breast cancer awareness, wellness and healthy lifestyles. Race days are Oct. 25 and Oct. 26.
     The IBCPC is an international not for profit organization whose mandate is to create positive, proactive breast health awareness through the development and support of recreational dragon boat paddling teams within the framework of participation and inclusiveness. The organization promotes a healthy, active lifestyle and provides organized opportunities for physical fitness and wellness education among breast cancer survivors and their supporters, according to its website. For more information visit
     Kudos to Marge for raising awareness and for celebrating life.
     I'm sure her courthouse family wishes her much success and is cheering her on.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Remembering Shirley

     Those passing through the hallways of the Montgomery County Courthouse at lunchtime during the last several months noticed a void. The chair, regularly  occupied by Shirley Jane Dilliplane, of Pottstown, sat empty while she reportedly recovered from an illness.
Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
     "Where's Shirley?" many concerned courthouse employees often were heard saying as they strolled past the chair on the courthouse plaza level where Shirley, 52, sat each day on her lunch break, between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m., crocheting blankets and joking with fellow employees she had come to know during her 28 years working for the county as an accounts payable clerk.
     Shirley's laughter and sense of humor were a constant, day-in-and-day-out, at that location, and courthouse visitors noticed when she was not there. I, on many occasions, was witness to the strong-willed, friendly woman speaking her mind, and she would often have a comment about the tie I wore on any particular day. Many in the courthouse family would stop and chat with her about her latest blanket creation.
     Sadly, word came on Sept. 22 that Shirley, a 1980 graduate of Pottstown Area High School, had passed away.
Memorial to Shirley Jane Dilliplane
     In the days that followed, some employees who knew the longtime county worker created a memorial, in the chair considered Shirley's. The memorial began with a flier, attached to the chair, announcing Shirley's funeral details. But soon, another employee added a floral tribute and then another added a crocheted blanket, gently draping it over the arm of the wooden chair. Finally, a photo of a smiling Shirley was placed on the wall behind the chair.
     "We saw her every day. She used to sit in her same place. We saw her knitting every day. She always talked to everybody," recalled Lisa Blake, a courthouse employee who often talked with Shirley. "She had a sense of humor, funny, and was always nice to everybody."
     "She liked to joke with me about Christmas because I hated Christmas. She likes it and I hate it and she'd put things on my Facebook page a lot," Blake laughed.
     In addition to crocheting blankets for relatives and friends, Shirley, a daughter of Marie A. (Garner) and the late Richard E. Dilliplane, also loved to read, attended Allentown School of Business and obtained an associate degree in accounting. In addition to her mother, Shirley is survived by a brother, a sister and numerous nieces and nephews, many of whom she would often mention with love and laughter during her conversations with others.
     Those who took the time to create the memorial for Shirley exhibited a special kindness. I'm sure your thoughtfulness was appreciated by many.
     "I tell God to tell her, 'Hi,'" Blake said.
     Rest in peace, Shirley. You will be missed.

In Memory of Shirley Jane Dilliplane