The first article for this round of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Orlando area is dedicated to Marie, our first Intergroup administrator. Jean B. of the Back to Basics Group reminisces about Marie.
On her 69th birthday, a little more than a year“Marie” — there was a time when that name was synonymous with the “Intergroup Office.” Marie was a true Irish Bostonian (by way of Chicago). The Intergroup Office was Marie’s life. Making sure that the hotline was answered at all times was the most important thing in the world to her.
On her 69th birthday, a little more than a year before she died, all of the volunteers got their heads together and planned a surprise party for her down at the Empress Lily. It was “Roast Marie” time. Two AA members made a date with her to go to breakfast; the rest of us got there early and waited to surprise her. The first words she uttered when she walked in the door and saw everyone there were, “Who’s answering the phones?” Of course that had been arranged also, and she was quickly reassured that there was someone “minding the store.”
It was my privilege to meet Marie during my first few months of sobriety. Robbie was still able to get around at that time, and he took me over to the office just a few doors away from the Alco-An Club, which at that time was down on Jackson Street.
Marie’s Irish humor and genuine warmth made everyone feel at home the minute they walked into the office; and in her typical Irish way, she could tell you some pretty hairy stories. There was the one about the zipper that I think Joe has already related in this column.
Marie was very good at getting people to do things I remember that Saturday morning that I met her, she asked if I knew how to type, and of course I said, “Sure.” The next thing I knew, I was typing a stencil, something I hated. But because Marie had asked me, it was OK!!! We had an old mimeograph machine someone had donated, and we turned out the meeting schedules on it. That was my initiation. It was a while before I got up nerve enough to ask Marie to be my sponsor, because I knew she was busy and she “helped” several newcomers.
At that time the 12th-step list consisted of two or three pages. The meeting schedule listing all the meetings in the tri-county area was typed on one 8 1/2 x 11-inch page. Al-Anon was listed on the back. For a while we were able to do it on the word processing equipment at Winter Park Federal where I worked. When I became paralyzed, Parker E. took over and handled the setup of the schedules.
Joe H. became our mapmaker and made many trips out to the “boondocks” to be sure of the placement of the meetings — N.S.E.W. of main arteries—so that strangers in the area would not get lost. After years of this, Joe turned the job over to Bill S. from Winter Garden, who came up with a very professional-looking map.
It was during this time that there was considerable “heated discussion” about changing the location of the Intergroup office. The decision was finally made to move to Winter Park. One of the reasons for this was the ability to call Sanford and Orlando from the United Telephone System. Not sure everyone has recovered from this altercation.
Nothing bugged Marie more than to find out weeks after the fact that a meeting had ceased to exist. She felt personally responsible for the information given out on the hotline.
When Marie became ill with the “big C,” as she called it, she became progressively weaker, but she quite often insisted that we stop by the office on her way home from the daily radiation treatments. She was so grateful for her sobriety and to the friends who helped her through those formative years. The list is long. However, those who most readily come to mind are: John Van D., Jim G., Bill D., Ed J., Andy A., Basia and Joe H., Eric N., Marvin R., Jim M., Dottie S., Mary C., Mary D., Eddie B., Luke P., Bemie S., Priscilla M., Jan B., Elise and Hal D., Mary M., Rotten Ralph, Chuck B., Emmett N., C. K. B. The list could go on and on.