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A Unique Zest for Life

Diequa is sad to announce the loss of a valuable employee and friend. The voice of Diequa, for so many years, is no longer with us. But she will never be forgotten.

“Hello, Diequa Corporation, Margit speaking. How may I direct your call?”

These were the first words most people heard when calling in to Diequa Corporation over the last 20 years. They were always said in a cheerful manner and with an uncommon sincerity. These words were spoken by Margit Mikkelsen, for many years our receptionist and for many more our office manager. Unfortunately, they will be spoken no more as Margit recently lost her 10 year battle with cancer.

Why are we sharing what should normally be a private company and personal matter? Because she was a special woman that not only affected us in our daily work, but also left us with valuable life lessons that we should all learn.

Margit had a unique zest for life. She worked hard and she played hard. She was always there to lend a helping hand and was the epitome of a person with a positive mental attitude. Among many of her sayings was “If you think I can’t do it, just watch me”.

Margit came to America from Germany in her late teens. As with most immigrants, it took awhile to adjust. But adjust she did. She developed a command of the English language, in both vocabulary and grammar, that would put most of our high school graduates to shame.

She eventually got married and soon following had two boys. Unfortunately, along the way, she had to endure an unhappy divorce. Raising the two kids became the next of her many obstacles that needed to be overcome. While certainly disappointed with this bump in the road, Margit moved forward ultimately paying off her mortgage, buying a new car every five years, which she kept immaculate, and helping her boys get through college the best she could. All the while, motivating them to follow their dreams.

During this time she developed some new hobbies to go along with her knitting and gardening (as if she had any spare time!). Looking for something both challenging and exotic, Margit joined both a running club and a scuba diving club.

The scuba diving allowed her to visit new worlds, both above and below the surface, that most never get to see or experience.  Along with the Carribean jaunts, Margit visited far off locales like Papua New Guinea and other South Pacific spots to dive on barrier reefs and explore old World War II wrecks.

Margit said that waking up each morning and hitting the forest preserve running trails got her back to nature and gave her that feeling of accomplishment that propelled her through each day. It was when she was in the final preparations for her first marathon that Margit got the bad news.

After a battery of medical tests, she got the results on the Thursday before the big day for which she had been training so hard. She had cancer. While most people would have fallen into a deep depression, Margit’s first question of her doctor was “This won’t affect my race, will it?”. After getting the go ahead, she completed her first marathon on Sunday and had her first medical procedure on Monday morning. This resulted in the first of several newspaper articles highlighting her determination.

Margit beat that first bout, only to have to deal with two more reoccurring episodes, the last of which was insurmountable. During that time she ran 10 more marathons in places like Chicago, Disney World, Hawaii, a military academy, and Berlin Germany. But her proudest individual moment was qualifying and running the famed Boston marathon. Also during this time she took many of her most exotic dive trips.

While her personal life was inspiring enough, she brought that same zest and positive attitude to work each day. A constant smile, a question about your kids, and an encouraging word whenever you were facing hardships, could always be counted on. And she was always dedicated to Diequa.

“Thanks for coming to work today!”, another of her frequent sayings, was uttered to me less than 48 hours before she left us for the last time. She battled to the end, squeezing out every ounce of life and fulfilling every obligation that she possibly could.

Looking back on Margit’s life, and how she lived it, it’s impossible not to think that we waste too much of ours. Not appreciating and spending enough time with family. Not putting enough effort and pride into our work. Not experiencing enough of what life has to offer. Not caring enough about other people. Not finding something to be passionate about. Allowing our own hardships and negative thoughts to continually drag us down.

Evidence of how Margit affected people’s lives is that, with only two days notice, over 250 people attended her memorial service. And every one had a story of how Margit touched them in some way.

Margit will be missed far more than just as a productive and valuable employee. She was a great friend and an inspiration. And she will keep on inspiring us to live our lives to the fullest from now on. What better legacy could she have possibly left?

Rest in peace, Margit. Your work may be done, but it will never be forgotten.

03/2008

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