From the moment you meet her, Marilyn Hill has a story to tell. On the coffee table in her home, the same one she grew up in, she’s arranged a selection of stories from her life. Some are single page vignettes from her childhood, and others are spiral bound tomes of family history.
A chronicler of life in Hamilton through the years, Marilyn began recording her memories through a project with the YWCA Hamilton Seniors Centre (now the Active Living 55+ Centre). When Marilyn retired in 1996, she went to the Players Guild to volunteer painting sets. There she met a member of YWCA Hamilton staff and was recruited for their memoirs group and storytelling project, Gems from the Jewel Box.
This project told stories from the YWCA Hamilton seniors community through the decades. Students from Sir John A. MacDonald High School helped to type up the stories and create artwork for the different sections.
Writing these stories from her life became an outlet for Marilyn, as well as a coping method to help her process her sister Lorraine’s dementia. Marilyn hopes her stories will be a legacy she can pass on to future generations so they can see how Hamilton has grown and changed through the years.
Some of Marilyn’s favourite memories of the Active Living 55+ Centre include the time when she and the other members were loaded onto a school bus to attend the Port Dover Friday the 13th Motorcycle Rally. For Marilyn, the most important service the Active Living 55+ Centre provides is social connections.
Through the pandemic, Marilyn made the transition to Zoom programming. She attends aerobics, line dancing, and mindbusters everyday. It’s helped to keep her busy and her mind active during lockdowns.
Marilyn recently took a tour of the new Active Living 55+ Centre at the Putman Family YWCA on Ottawa St., and hopes to be able to rejoin her fellow members for in-person programming in the new year, where she’ll continue to share her stories.