Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Dedication of Life: Marlene W. Pheney
Today as I sit in this office, the one my manager used, the chair she use to sit in, I needed to write about this woman and her legacy and impact on me and on so many others who had the chance to meet Marlene Pheney. Ms. Pheney served as Interim Clean City Coordinator, inheriting the role as the Program Specialist for the Clean City Initiative. She served in that capacity since 2006. When I first came aboard about 3 years ago we sorta bumped heads (as Leo's often do,) but mostly the result of the coordinator at the time, who allowed such stuff to happen. In the last year however, Ms. Pheney and I got close as we were the only two left after the switch of mayoral administrations. We actually had a heart-to-heart the Spring of last year, where we both apologized and praised each others work habits. She said, "you were only trying to do your job." I in return praised her for sharing her knowledge and experiences in government, and particularly the ability to navigate our agency. All was well until Ms. Pheney became ill around mid-November. I remember the days leading up to what would be her final day at work. That Thursday around lunch time, I went out and got us Chinese food from our new favorite spot on U street. The food helped ease the pain she was experiencing in her stomach area. I came to work that Friday to find that she decided to go to the doctor. The doctor simply gave her some medicine and sent her home. I arrived Monday and still no Ms. Pheney. I called her on her cell phone and she told me she was still in severe pain and did not get much rest over the weekend. She was going back to the doctor that week for more help. Over the week Ms. Pheney took the medicine which made her more sick. She eventually ended up going to the hospital where they ran tests and ultimately found she has having issues with her pancreas. She would spend the months of December, January and February in and out the hospital. Over this time period, we spoke daily and I visited her a few times while she was in the hospital. I went to go see her Christmas Eve at home to take her gifts. Little did I know this would be the last time I saw her alive. Our time together that evening was lovely. We talked about watched the football game that was on as she was a big Redskins fan (My Cowboys lost.) Ms. Pheney and I shared a unique bond of discussing just about everything under the sun not related to work. She wanted to meet my grandmother eventually, as I always spoke about her, her cooking and their similar sage gift of wisdom. Ms. Pheney in January was told that she would begin chemo/radiation to battle the now pancreatic cancer. She was excited that she could begin this treatment. She was no stranger to this as she defeated breast cancer and colon cancer years ago. The last time I spoke to Ms. Pheney on the phone was the Thursday before her death the following Tuesday. We spoke briefly as her doctors were coming in the speak with her. I guess the cancer had spread and that she was told there was nothing much they could do. She was told she had 6 months to live and she was already 4 months in. Tuesday night I checked my work email, not a normal practice for me to do, to which I found emails with the subject "Marlene Pheney." I clicked the first email from our Community Affairs director that told us of her passing. I was in disbelief. I had just sat down to watch one of our favorite shows, "The Biggest Loser." Coming into the office next day was hard. By the time I got in, everyone had heard the news. Ms. Pheney was very well known throughout the city government. I remember just walking down the street with her and she would run into people that knew her. She was certainly set in her ways and stood her ground but was open and spoke to everyone that crossed her path. Today I treasure the time I had with such a spectacular phenomenal woman. I thank the Lord for putting her in my life and for us overcoming our personal gripes to developing a beautiful friendship. May she rest in peace.