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Olga Marshall Passed Away

Olga Marshal

Olga Marshal took care of the flower gardens along Gerritsen Avenue in and around many of the bus stops.


My aunt, Olga Marshall, passed away yesterday after a 18 month courageous and aggressive battle with brain cancer. Optimistic in the face of a great and deadly adversity, Olga fought back with alternative treatments and refused to give up hope to the end. During her last 18 months, she lived to see the birth and first year of her twin grandchildren, watch her oldest grandson attend kindergarten, celebrate her brother’s 65th birthday party, gather with relatives and friends at one of her favorite events, the Peddler’s Village Apple Festival, and preside over the making of another batch of homemade perogie for our family’s Russian Christmas celebration. All the while, she fought back and continued therapy to try and regain some of the lost mobility her brain surgery had left her with. And all the while, she remained as caring and giving to others as she had been her whole life – providing an eager ear to listen to the life stories of complete strangers, mixing up batches of homemade remedies for every type of ailment anyone had under the sun, and espousing the virtues and miracles of Elderberry to all who would listen.

She had an amazing support system; her husband John, who cared for her many months at home; son Gregory who became the foremost expert in brain cancer and all possible alternative treatments, questioned and challenged all health care professionals to make sure she was receiving the best care possible and was relentless in keeping her spirits and hopes up; daughter Karin who handled many difficult logistics of care and finances and whose family provided her with the blessing of little childrens’ pureness of heart and ignorance of all other difficult adult things; her friend and caretaker Franca who was like an angel sent to watch over her and care for her, and her brother John and sister-in-law Lilette who supplied her with her favorite foods, caring conversation and enduring love.

Olga was a fixture of Gerritsen Beach – any who have lived here knew her, if not by name, by sight, seeing her plant gardens around the bus shelters or taking in lost animals as her own (even those most wouldn’t touch such as hedgehogs and possums). She worked with GB Cares to better the neighborhood. And she was so creative. She had a shop on Gerritsen Avenue right next to Big Al’s and Leo’s back in the day, and it showcased her amazing talent in creating beautiful things – baskets and soaps and candles and wreaths…it made you smile just to walk in.

Aunt Olga enjoyed life like few of us seem to have the time to do these days – she enjoyed little moments, drank in details, savored foods as if every meal was the first thing she had ever eaten. When she graced you with her conversation, she made you feel like you were a hero, the most amazing person alive no matter what task you did however small. “Wooooww, that’s incredible, no really, there are not many people out there like that – I could never do what you did,” would be the general jist of the conversation. And though that may sound exaggerated, she delivered that with the utmost sincerity and belief that you really were that marvelous, until you walked away realizing she made you feel that way for something like dropping off a neighbor’s mail or something.

My aunt loved this neighborhood, the people in it, the stories they had. She was eccentric and quirky, generous and loving, interesting and one-of-a-kind. There will never be another like her.

I’d like to make a suggestion that the gardens along Gerritsen Beach be named after her with a plaque or some type of tribute. And I ask you to pass this on to any who might have known her.

Thank you,
Lori Smerechniak Woodcock
formerly of Gerritsen Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

22 comments to Olga Marshall Passed Away

  • G.B.

    R.I.P. Olga, she lived on my block and will be dearly missed.

  • Good Lady

    I was sorry to hear about Olga’s passing. She was constant fixture on Gerritsen Avenue for years and gave up her own time to make it look lovely. I hope that something can be done to commemorate her hard work but I am glad that the flowers she so carefully planted and tended to year-after-year will continue to bloom in her honor. She was one dedicated woman and from the sound of this letter, seemed like a remarkable and courageous person. Sincerest sympathies to her family.

  • Rest in Peace

    I did not know Olga personally, however about 25 years ago. I encountered her on the bike pathgoing to Marine Park. She was walking along and I was on my bike collecting nickle deposits. She had asked me what I was doing so I explained. She said that she passed that spot everyday and if she found any cans or bottles she would leave them under a certain tree for me. That is exactly what she did. That entire summer she left her find for me. I never spoke with her again, I ALWAYS saw her in the neighborhood. I now live here with my wife and two kids.

    It is people like Olga who make a difference in our neighborhood. may she rest in peace. She touched my life, and I know she touched many others. Our love and prayers go to her family. You now have a special angel to watch over you.

    • Lori

      @Rest in Peace, Thank you so very much for sharing this story. It is so wonderful for us to hear about ways my aunt touched those around her, and to know the impression she made on people that we didn’t even know. Your remembrance really strikes at the essence of who she was – thoughtful, sincere, quirky, and truly interested in and caring towards others around her. We shared your story today at her wake, and it brought a smile to everyone’s faces. Thank you, thank you so very much. – Lori

  • Frank

    Lori your story was beautifully said and brought tears to my eyes and sadness to my heart about your aunt! She was appreciated by many for her kindness, efforts and love for which she gave to this community. My family and I are deeply sadened by your loss and send our condolences, May she rest in Peace in the gardens of Heaven!

  • Stefanie Hayes

    Olga Marshall was warm, friendly, welcoming, and unconventional. She filled my childhood with clothespin dolls, pot pourri, and hot chocolate after snowball fights – and pierogies of course. When I had children of my own, she would tell me of the wisdom that she could tell they already posessed. She made me laugh, and she made my children laugh.

    Olga radiated energy and shared her broad knowledge freely, whether a home remedy, gardening tip, or floor refinishing advice. She was also a lifelong learner, and listened eagerly to others experiences. I believe Olga changed those she knew for the better. She was an exceptional person who gave of herself constantly, and inspired others to do the same. I hope the personality of the neighborhood continues to carry the legacy Olga Marshall created. Olga will certainly be missed. My family sends our heartfelt condolences to the Marshall family.

  • Beachwalker

    A terrible loss to the community as well as her family and friends. She deserves to be honored and remembered for the beautiful contribution she made to the neighborhood. I hope her family can console themselves knowing that if there is a heaven, she is surely in it, tending the garden and the animals. My deepest condolences to her family.

  • Kate

    A terrible loss of a great lady…my deepest sympathies.

  • Remember

    While remembering Mrs. Marshall and those that passed, please keep the Donnery family in your thoughts during this time as well as the Neuman family.

  • Anonymous

    RIP Olga you will be missed . May the Good lord Take care of you in the Green gardens of heaven

  • Anonymous

    @, Debbie. RIP.

  • The Lallo Family

    Sorry to hear about Olga Marshall, and Dolores Donnery,
    Our Deepest sympathy to both families.

    The Lallo Family

  • Lori

    Thanks to all who posted here with their condolences for Olga Marshall. The family sincerely appreciates your kind words, thoughts and prayers. It makes a difficult time slightly more bearable. -Lori

  • cd

    My husbands Mother, Dolores Donnery, also passed away suddenly this day. Like Olga, they were two amazing ladies. Always putting others before themselves. Rest in Peace!

  • Jack Lambros

    Olga was like family to me, I am her son in law’s cousin. I use to see her every family gathering and you put it so well when you mentioned she always made you feel like a hero even if it was the simplest thing you did. We always talk about film documentary film making, and things like that because she knew I was into film and video. She would always try to help me out and give me suggestions to help me break into it, and compliment everything I did that i mentioned. No matter what she would always give in a helping hand to people whether it was something big or something small. I will miss her very much!

    – Jack

  • Just a Memory.

    i can recall being about 5 or 6 years old, and my mother took me into Olga’s Shop, because my mother always loved going in there, and checking out the whole store, while i would be getting a haircut at Al’s. Every time my mother and, I would be walking back down the Avenue, Olga would always give me a free Rock Candy on a Stick. =)

    Real nice lady, and it isn’t a bad idea to name those gardens after her. After all, if it wasn’t for her, that area would look like garbage.

    R.I.P Olga