My hope for the future is that the younger generation will take up from where we've left off, that they will take their skills, their technology, their learning, and make the world an even better place.

~ Marion Bremner

All of us at the Kelowna Chamber were deeply saddened at the announcement of Marion’s death on March 18. Like so many great institutions, Marion’s wonderful, giving life was something we expected to go on forever, even as we knew she was suffering increasingly from ALS.

Although she lost that uneven match, it was one of the few battles from which Marion didn’t emerge the victor. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing her during her years at the Royal Bank, where she broke through management’s glass ceiling; my predecessors here at the Chamber at that time in the 1970s, however, would have been well aware of this path-breaking woman.

Soon Marion was making waves right here at the Chamber as well. Elected in 1977, she served as the first woman Director on the Chamber board. Marion went on to be a role model for many outstanding women in business and not for profit organizations in the city to bring richness, a different outlook, and new thinking to the Chamber of Commerce as the first woman Director after 79 years since incorporation.

Of course, Marion went on to become President of the Chamber in 1985 and a much-treasured member of the Past Presidents Council here. That is when I finally met her, at one of our Past Presidents events when I first became involved with the Kelowna Chamber as a Director.

While being Chair of the Board has been a wonderful experience for me, and I am sure it was for Marion as well, I can’t begin to envision some of the looks and comments she must have endured – and gracefully overcome – when she first walked into rooms and meetings as the first woman Director we had shown our roster of business members.

Enough was never enough for Marion. Should she run for Mayor of Kelowna? Certainly. Should she have won? Well, losing by a couple of hundred votes wasn’t a bad showing. Should she run for City Council? Definitely: and win and serve on Council for more than a decade.

Should Marion give back to the community once she retired from the bank? Very definitely. Honing her skills in running a not-for-profit, she set up the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, becoming a Director/Secretary of the International organization then adding management of the local Meals on Wheels program where she stayed for 22 years. Marion grew both, making enormous contributions made with humility, style, commitment and great planning.

Our current CEO Dan Rogers volunteered with Marion on the 2019 Host Committee for the BC Seniors Games. Rogers was immediately impressed by her organizational abilities, unstoppable enthusiasm, and come-on-let’s-get-it-done-now approach to the hurdles presented at nearly every turn. Most of all, he remembers that Marion was giving and sincere in caring for those around her.

To say that she has left a void is an understatement. But also, to say that Marion gave so much to Kelowna without asking for recognition is also an understatement. She was gracious when in 2021 she received the prestigious Kelowna Chamber Business Leader of the Year for her enduring work with Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity. She also challenged all of us to do more to help those in need.

Marion: we miss you. And, we say thank you from your entire Chamber family.

Dan Price, Chair, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce