Marge Yeager’s New Normal
By Melanee Terry
University of Maine at Presque Isle student Marge Yeager has faced many obstacles in her life, from breast cancer to spending her last 10 years as a part-time student while working a full-time job with a family at home. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, though, she is forced to battle yet another obstacle: creating a new normal at home during her last days as an UMPI Owl.
An Applied Science major, Marge had been selected to serve as a class marshal for the 2020 graduation, but now that the ceremony has gone virtual, she will not be able to help lead the commencement march.
“I was disappointed, but I understand of course. We need to do what is necessary to protect lives, so there is really no choice,” Marge said. “I love people and I love UMPI. It’s been hard not being able to talk to people face to face.”
Marge is continuing to work full-time at Aroostook Area Agency on Aging as the Manager of the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). She is also finishing up the last of her classes, while balancing space needs in the house with her husband and son, who are also working from home. Marge is an interactive learner, who does best in a classroom setting, so initially she was struggling with the switch to virtual learning, especially during her last months as a student.
“The hard part of working from home is knowing when to stop. For the first few weeks, I was working all the time. I had to learn to shut off my email at night and leave some things for the next day,” Marge said. “I have taken over half of our living room as my office, and I am still struggling a little at getting organized, but my dog is super happy to have me here all day.”
Marge and her son Charlie, who is a high school senior, are facing a similar situation. They are both finishing up their classes at home and will not be able to experience a traditional graduation ceremony. Similar to his mother, Charlie misses the benefits of an in-person education. Regardless of missing his final weeks as a high schooler, though, Charlie is staying positive and spending even more time with his mother.
“My son Charlie is graduating from Central Aroostook High School. He is doing a great job at homeschooling though, and I am super proud of him. We are all taking it in stride. We go for a lot of walks with our dog Amber, play games and cook food,” Marge said. “I got my cap and gown in the mail, so my son and I went out and took some scenic senior pics so I would have a nice one to share. I am really enjoying the extra time with my son.”
After spending a decade at the university–and surviving breast cancer in the process, Marge impressed many faculty and staff members, including Nola Belanger, who works in the Registrar’s Office and asked her to be a class marshal. Though she won’t walk on the UMPI stage, Marge is very grateful there will still be a graduation because she has waited a long time to get to this moment.
“I am looking forward to virtual graduation. I have been working on my degree part-time for the past 10 years, and it is a huge accomplishment for me. I also battled and survived breast cancer while remaining a student, thanks to a lot of support from UMPI staff and faculty,” Marge said. “I appreciate that we could add a message to share at graduation. I thanked my mom who passed away in 2016. She was always my biggest fan and she would be so proud of me.”
While she’s spent many hours working on her classes, Marge works full time at RSVP, managing 500 volunteers across Aroostook County. These volunteers deliver meals, visit homebound older adults, work at food pantries, lead exercise classes, and respond to other community needs.
“It is a great job and the folks at the Agency are wonderful,” Marge said. “Right now that has changed a lot as we had to stop all in-person contact, but we still have a lot of volunteers helping. Now they call instead of visit, and drop off meals at the door instead of going into homes, but we are finding ways to keep rolling with all the new normals.”
Marge continues to miss her life before the stay-at-home orders, which includes going to church, spending time with friends, and going to the movies. Her daughter introduced her to Elder Scrolls Online, which is similar to Dungeons and Dragons. Marge loves technology and games, so she has been able to relieve some stress through the game. Marge and her husband have been sharing their love for cooking by making different types of cuisine. She also looks forward to Sundays because her pastor posts a Facebook sermon each week.
“The whole world has been impacted by the Coronavirus, so I really hope this helps people to see that we are all in this together, not just our country but the whole world. We are all just people who want the same things: life, love, jobs, education, and fun,” Marge said. “I hope the world can start working together on solving problems. If I were in a pageant, my answer would be ‘World Peace!’”