Something about Mary |

Something about Mary

The now-wrapped, seven-season NBC comedy series “Parks and Recreation” was one of my favorites because it was funny and starred Amy Poehler.

Both perks in my book.

I also enjoyed the obscure references to life as a Hoosier, as the show was set in my home state. One of my favorite episodes was filmed at the historic St. Elmo’s Steak House in Indy. I highly recommend the shrimp cocktail.

Trust me on this one.

Like “The Office,” the show focused on the strong working relationship between the eight regular, full-time characters as they fulfilled their roles in the parks and rec department of fictional Pawnee, Indiana. The story lines for Leslie, Ben, Ron, April, Andy, Tom, Donna and Jerry (also known as Gerry — long story) were funny because they were true. The last episode in February looked into their futures and how their lives would continue to intersect, even after their core group dynamic experienced change that many workplaces see in the business world. I love that the season finale implied Leslie Knope would someday serve as a U.S. president.

A woman will do it.

In my career I’ve worked in different roles, and offices, over the last two decades. From newsroom to corporate boardroom, I’ve made lasting friendships I’m still thankful for today. Much of the credit for helping me stay in touch with former co-workers goes exclusively to social media outlets such as Facebook and LinkedIn. My colleagues at my college newspaper continue to interact in our alumni Facebook group. Some of us even stay connected by playing games of Words with Friends and Trivia Crack against each other. My former Purdue Exponent managing editor is my toughest competition.

He was always a great boss, too.

A week ago, I was reminded how important work relationships can be in our adult lives. They can build us up through camaraderie and inspiration. Like the unbreakable connection between the fictional colleagues in “Parks and Recreation,” the real-life impact we have on each other in the workplace can remain much longer than the duration of a tenure or project collaboration.

I was saddened last Wednesday to learn the Glenwood Springs community, and the world, lost a truly amazing soul in the sudden passing of one of my former PI colleagues, Mary Borkenhagen. Mary truly was a one-of-a-kind woman I looked up to for her dedication to family and passion for causes involving human and animal rights.

I always loved to hear what she had to say.

For years, Mary was one of the first cheerful faces visitors to the paper would see as they came in to talk to a reporter or place an ad. I couldn’t pass her desk without stopping to find out what was happening in her life or share the funny stuff in my love life.

That’s always been a constant source of humor.

Mary loved her husband, kids and cute little granddaughter with so much heart I could see the adoration in the twinkle of her strikingly blue eyes. Her presence was magical. I was also drawn to Mary for her dry wit, an attribute I think helps most of us survive common workplace situations.

Laughter has that effect on people.

I remember once at the old Post building, some random smoke was coming from the heating and air system, and the fire department was called. We had to evacuate the building while the crew checked it out for safety. Growing up in a fire family, I have a long-standing — and public, thanks to this column — admiration for firefighters. Mary made the most of our temporary displacement, many of us on deadline at the time, teasing me about how maybe I needed one particularly handsome firefighter to come put my fire out. Of course I had to agree.

That was an old running joke of ours.

Five years ago, Mary and one of my best friends whom I also met by working at the paper, Kendra, shared a night of laughs as a Spellebration team representing the PI. Spellebration is Literacy Outreach’s premier fundraising event, and is what I would describe as the most fun adult spelling bee in the world. With crazy costumes, classic cocktails and some serious corporate sponsor competition, it’s almost like Vegas.

What happens there should probably stay there.

In 2010, the event had an artsy theme. Mary was a funky and fun artist who shared her talent by volunteering at the Center for the Arts and creating heart-felt art gifts for those she loved. Mary and Kendra were inspired to come up with a witty idea for our team theme and name — Show Me the Monet — in hot pursuit of Best Costume honors. Kendra and I played the part of French painters, complete with berets and brushes. We didn’t win the big prize, but it was Mary who was our greatest work of art. She stole the show as a walking “Water Lilies” Claude Monet painting. Blue face and all. Showing she was truly a true team player, and not just a co-worker.

Mary is our forever friend.

April E. Clark sends love and light to Mary’s family and friends who celebrate her life today. She can be reached at

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