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After years of helping senior citizens and disabled adults in Union and Wallowa counties, Marty Falk recently decided to step down and take some time to enjoy her family.
FAREWELL gathering: Marty Falk, the retiring manager of three communities for seniors and disabled adults in Union County, shares some memories with Clover Glen resident Pat Asper during a party in Falk’s honor March 7. - The Observer/Bill Rautenstrauch
In retirement, she plans to do some gardening, and some traveling with the her husband. And wherever she goes, she’ll take with her the memories of the many friends she’s made.
“It gives me a feeling of accomplishment that my tenants accepted me as a friend,” Falk said. “So many of them don’t have anybody. I always tried to be there.”
Falk has never been one to duck out of work, and there isn’t much she hasn’t tried over the years.
Since graduating from Joseph High School in 1960, She’s been a nursing assistant, a factory worker, a daycare provider, a motel manager, and more.
That job came to an end in 1988 because of budget cuts. She went to work as an assistant in the Wallowa County Clerk’s Office for another 10 years, then moved to Spokane.
She was doing in-home care in Spokane when she got an offer from Enterprise-based Chrisman Development and Management.
The Wallowa County company headed by brothers Tony and Doug Chrisman operates apartment complexes for senior and adult disabled. Doug Chrisman was the one to suggest hiring Falk to manage Clover Glen, a 43-unit facility in La Grande.
Falk, who went by her maiden name of Cazone then, liked the idea of coming back to Northeast Oregon. But, being a conscientious soul, she didn’t exactly jump at the chance.
“I was doing the in-home care, and I wanted to give two week’s notice for that job,” she said. “Doug said that would be all right.”
Falk recalled that the training period for her new job didn’t last too long.
“Doug took me into the office, showed me the desk and phone and said they were mine. He walked me through a couple of screenings, and that was my training,” she said. “But of course, whenever I needed to know something, I could call the main office.”
Part of her job was to make sure routine maintenance was carried out. Another involved reviewing applications and recertification documents, determining eligibility for low-income housing subsidies.
She always considered herself an advocate, she said.
“I’d review the eligibility recertifications, and if there was a reduction of more than a few dollars, I’d question it,” she said. “For a lot of these people, a few dollars can be a lot of money.”
She showed an aptitude for the work, and her responsibilities increased. Eventually she took over management of Ramo Flat in Union and Emily Drive in Island City, both 11-unit communities. For a time, she also managed the Mallard Heights complex in Elgin.
Early on, she encountered situations that required sound judgement, and above all, compassion.
Once, at Ramo Flat, a young man confined to a wheelchair passed away in his apartment. Falk had to take control and see the death was handled properly. At the time, she was inexperienced at such things.
“I hadn’t ever encountered anything quite like that before,” she said.
Another time, an elderly couple living at the Union facility learned their son had been murdered in the Willamette Valley. Falk found herself helping them deal with the initial shock.
“I walked in and they were in tears, just didn’t know what to do,” Falk recalled. “They wanted to find out what had happened, but didn’t know how. I helped put them in touch with law enforcement.”
Tony Chrisman said he always felt comfortable knowing she was on the job.
“We’ve got a lot of different properties and rarely do we get someone who’s got such a good rapport with our tenants,” Chrisman said.
Whenever someone needed a ride to the hospital or to a doctor’s appointment, Falk was there. Tenants knew they could count on her help day or night.
Not long ago, Clover Glen resident Ladema Asper took a fall outside her apartment. Falk made sure Asper got appropriate medical care.
“I hurt my wrist and skinned up my face,” said Asper, who won’t admit her age except to say she is past 70. “She took me to the hospital. She does that for anybody who needs it.”
Falk’s daughter, Wanda Guida-Overton, lives at the Clover Glen complex. She said she has seen numerous instances in which her mother went above and beyond the call of duty for the residents.
“She loves her tenants. They are her friends and she has a lot invested in their lives. She wishes all the best for them,” Guida-Overton said.
Falk said she always wanted to be a friend first, an apartment manager second. She shared joy with the residents, and sometimes felt grief for them.
In those sad times when a tenant passed away, Falk made it a point to to be at the funeral.
“I tried to always be there for them,” she said. “A lot of them didn’t have caring families other than the people at the complex. It was important to me to show that someone cared.”
Now that she’s retired, Falk and her husband Don, also retired, plan to do a good deal of traveling from their home in Elgin.
On tap in the short term are trips to visit relatives in Colorado and Oklahoma. After that, the couple looks forward to camping trips and time with family.
“We’re going to be enjoying the outdoors and the grandkids,” Falk said.
Olie McDougall of La Grande succeeds Falk as manager. McDougall said Falk has worked hard to ensure the transition is a smooth one.
“She’s made the transition so delightful and wonderful,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m stepping into anything difficult. I’m not concerned about it at all.”
Tony Chrisman said Falk will be missed.
“She’s done a great job and turned our housing areas into communities,” he said.