Marcia Walsh, humanitarian globetrotter

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

For some, life begins at 60. It may be a second life for 83-year-old Marcia Walsh, who seems to have had a fulfilling first 60 years.

“I was a mother of six children, a homebody, a perpetual and proficient volunteer with the Girl Scouts and blood banks.” She and her husband of 44 years traveled extensively before she became a widow in 1993.

In the 1970s she was appointed to the Jefferson County Board of Health based on her knowledge of surveillance of strep in the school system, an approach she brought with her from Wyoming.  She served on that board for seven years.

But since turning 60 she’s explored numerous Third World countries, climbed Kilimanjaro twice, and gotten a degree in nursing.

She’s been to Haiti two dozen times, often enough for people to recognize her when she returns. As part of the Colorado Haiti Project for the past 25 years, Marcia has been one of many who have helped with establishing a rudimentary medical and dental clinic focused on helping a section of the country with a population of 15-20,000. Sometimes she’s taken her own tent for a place to stay, 1 of 10-15 people who volunteer in Haiti for 2 weeks at a time.

Colorado Haiti Project has been responsible for starting a school, establishing microcredit, and digging 12 water wells. “Its very sustainable now,” Marcia says. “It’s wonderful to see what has been done.”

After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Marcia visited the country with Gretchen Berggren, a fellow Rotarian and trained public health doctor who’d raised her children in Haiti when she and her husband were assigned there.  Marcia and Gretchen worked with the Children's Nutrition of Haiti program in the very epicenter of the earthquake.

Education for girls has been a passion of Marcia’s. She’s been to Guatemala six or seven times – first with Friendship Bridge and then with Starfish One by One, Colorado-based organizations that work in effecting change in Mayan women by improving their education or earning power. She’s also involved with Wings, an organization that works to improve family planning and Guatemalan women’s reproductive health. Likewise, she’s been to Tanzania with AfricAid, another Colorado-based nonprofit that focuses on schooling for girls. Each organization works in its own way to break the cycle of poverty and despair.

Locally, she’s part of the Mountain Reads initiative that works with adults who cannot read or write here in our mountain area. “It’s a definite problem!” she says with an implied underscore. The organization has dozens of tutors who agree to meet twice a week for six months with those desiring to gain proficiency in the basic skills most of us take for granted. Marcia is not a tutor herself but contributes as a board member.

“I’m a cheerleader – that’s what I’m good at. I don’t necessarily have any great résumé or background for what I’m doing,” she contends.

Being part of the Evergreen Rotary Club for 15 years has been a good fit for Marcia, as Rotary International reflects many of her own interests and values – creating meaningful and sustainable change around the world. “I just think Rotary is a phenomenal organization service-wise. You don’t know what Rotary does until you start getting involved with it.” From working to eliminate polio to helping to create clean water supplies for everyone, Rotarians have touched the lives of many. Marcia has attended Rotary International conferences as far away as Bangkok.

Clean water supplies are important to Marcia.  She expresses concerns over Rocky Flats and discloses that she spends her evenings plowing through a book on water law for non-lawyers to better understand the issues.

She contributes to the success of Evergreen Rotary by interviewing members and publishing their profiles on the club’s website to encourage members to get better acquainted, pairing up with Brenda Hagerman to do the job. She prides herself on asking the probing questions that draw out the “juicy” details of the many talented members and their varied backgrounds. (When asked what “juicy” detail she’d like to share about herself, she admits to having met a number of interesting people on!)

As her passport indicates, she loves to travel and enjoys investigating new places and new cultures. She’s been around the globe and back – New Zealand to China and Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, the British Isles and Europe. As if hiking all the fourteeners in Colorado isn’t enough to impress a person, Marcia’s also hiked in England, the Dolomites, Cinque Terra in Italy, Kilimanjaro twice, a volcano in Tanzania, and the Inca Trail in Peru. Two artificial knees and one artificial hip have helped to keep her mobile. She still loves to ski, and her heart has designs on hiking the Camino Trail in Spain someday.

At home she makes time for helping to maintain trails in the Mt. Evans and Lost Creek Wilderness areas.

Her love for exploring other countries may be in her genes, as her roots trace back to the French-Canadian Beaubian family, early settlers of Chicago in 1811.

Marcia, a resident of Evergreen since the late ‘70s, enjoys her community but says, “We live in a bubble. ‘What the eye does not see the heart does not move,’” she says, paraphrasing from words of wisdom she’s heard before. “Go and see the needs of the world. It’ll open up our eyes and our hearts. We need to broaden ourselves to become better people.”  Marcia practices what she preaches.  

"I want to make my campsite cleaner than I found it," she says with resolve.