Inspiration: Marie L. Pearce

As humans, there is a part of us that wants to leave something behind for us to be remembered by. Whether it be our work, our actions, or our ideas. Sometimes, we come across people who just by simply being who they are, leave a lasting impression on us. For over a year I’ve been going to a nursing home down the street from where I live to provide the residents with haircuts. During my time there I’ve gotten to know each of them rather well, but there was one person whom I could never speak to, her name is Marie. Marie can no longer speak due to her old age, but as I came to find out her story I immediately felt that it had to remain alive. Marie’s story was illustrated to me by one of the nurses, “her life was well lived but also well earned” she told me. Marie was born on April 1st 1919 in New Jersey. The daughter of a single mother who was pregnant with Marie when she decided to leave Jamaica, she made her way over to the US on a ship where eventually she settled down in New Jersey. Marie’s mother made her living by working as a housekeeper while Marie attended school.

The importance of education was instilled in her and throughout the course of her life she would earn 5 different degrees and attend colleges all throughout the world. In 1935 when Marie was only 16 years old her mother passed, and with no knowledge of relatives in the US or Jamaica she was left alone. After she graduated high school, Marie used the funds from an insurance policy her mother left behind to pay her way through nursing school where she excelled in her studies and after 3 years she made the decision that she wanted to use her new found education to serve her country by enlisting into the army. The only problem was that she was one inch short of the height requirement but because of her exceptional grades they allowed her to enlist. She went on to have an acclaimed career that saw her stationed in Germany, Hawaii, and Japan holding multiple titles including officer and Lieutenant Colonel while being given several awards; one in particular for serving as a nurse to American families in Germany during WWII. She continued her service for the next 30 years and upon being discharged she found herself not knowing what to do next. Her entire life had been the army, everything she had ever known. One day Marie was reading when she came across the town of Columbia, Maryland. Immediately it resonated with her and with no hesitation she bought herself a station wagon, picked up everything she owned and set towards Maryland.

Even after a life in the army, Marie didn’t slow down. In Columbia she served as a community nurse, she also sang at the historic Howard University in a community singing group. After retiring she continued her work by volunteering along side Colin Powell’s wife, Alma Powell, and the organization America’s Promise Alliance who dedicate themselves to the children and youth by forming conditions they need to reach adult success. Marie was also a polyglot who could speak five different languages including English, Spanish, German, French, and Japanese. Her friend recounted a story where one day they were walking in a market when she overheard two men speaking Japanese. At the shock of her friend Marie subtly joined the conversation. “I didn’t know you could speak Japanese.” Marie simply replied “Well, you never asked.” When I think of Marie’s life the quote “there is no greater purpose than service to others” comes to mind. And as her friend said she truly lived a life well earned. Today, Marie is 99 years old, never had children, never married, and lives her days in a nursing home in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Marie is a true hero and an inspiration to many. Her life story is her greatest legacy. We celebrate Marie today and will continue to forever.

Anthony Capra