There was the encyclopedic memory and the passionate patient advocacy. But first there was Marion McCarty's smile.
"When I got there and met her, the first thing I noticed was her smile," said former Center chaplain Percy Randle, recalling his arrival in Seattle in 1983 as a transplant patient. "Marion had the prettiest smile and it was always on her face."
Jennifer Denson, a social worker at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, had a similar first impression of McCarty, the Center's first social worker. "The first thing I remember about Marion is she always had a smile on her face," said Denson, who joined the social work staff in 1985. "She was a very warm person."
McCarty passed away last June at the age of 79, sadly missing this summer's patient reunion she had planned to attend.
It didn't take long for McCarty to leave an indelible impression on those she worked with, be it staff members or patients and their families. "She made people comfortable and they felt like they could trust her," said Judy Campbell, a longtime Hutchinson Center transplant nurse now in the Long Term Follow Up Program.
McCarty's deep caring for patients and their families developed from her own experience as the mother of a Hutchinson patient. Her son, Steve, was transplanted in 1972 at the age of 13. Steve survived until 2003.
Debra Fraley, a project coordinator in Social Work who met McCarty in the mid-'70s, said McCarty applied her own family's experience to the development of social work practice at the Center, "filling holes she found" in the program's ability to serve families.
"I was hugely impressed with her heart, spirit and generosity," Fraley recalled. "She was very calm, with a soothing voice and she had a great memory. Marion remembered details about individuals and families and was interested enough to find out those details."
McCarty maintained contact with hundreds of patients after they were discharged and even into her retirement. At her retirement celebration, she was presented with a memory book containing hundreds of letters from her former patients and their families.
The Family Assistance Fund began in honor of Marian McCarty and Percy Randle. "The fund provides aid to patients, their families or caregivers who demonstrate a need for financial assistance with daily, non-medical expenses, such as grocery money, diapers, child-care costs, bus fares or long-distance phone bills.
Fraley has administered the fund for several years. "It has a huge impact on families' experiences here," she said. "I've sat across the table from families the past six or seven years and talked with them about helping them with expenses. I hear these devastating stories and I can offer them help. It's a perfect way to honor Marion."