Marge Garvin, “the spirit and soul” of St. Hubert, is retiring at a healthy 86 years old.
Marge Garvin was a relatively young widow and mother of five back in 1981 as she looked to enter the workforce.
One of her daughters, Joanne, was a sophomore at St. Hubert High School. At the time, the school secretary was going on maternity leave, and Garvin was hired as her temporary fill-in.
“She never came back,” Garvin recalled.
So Garvin stayed on the job for the rest of the school year and many more years, becoming a popular fixture in the main office among students, staff and visitors.
Some months ago, Garvin announced that the 2016–17 school year would be her last. She worked until last Friday before beginning her well-deserved retirement at age 85 after 36 years on the job.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s time,” she said.
Garvin grew up in Brewerytown and attended the former St. Ludwig, a German grammar school at 29th and Master streets. She went on to attend John W. Hallahan High School, playing on the basketball team and graduating in 1949.
She and her husband, Tom, a police officer and bartender at Wally’s Cafe (the predecessor to the original Chickie’s & Pete’s), raised four girls and a boy on Montague Street in Wissinoming, where Marge still lives. Tom died suddenly of a heart attack at age 47.
Soon after, Garvin was hired by the principal, Sister Marcus, and began what would be a long stint at St. Hubert.
“God closed one door and opened another,” she said.
Garvin was no novice. Before getting married, she did secretarial work. And later, on the side, she typed up documents for an insurance company, earning a penny and a half per page and five cents for an envelope.
At St. Hubert, she answered the phone, opened the mail, greeted visitors, buzzed in people and did “a dozen and one other things.” All four of her daughters and two of her granddaughters attended the school.
Garvin always tried to make a good first impression with all visitors.
“Be nice and have a smile on your face,” she said.
Garvin reported to the school president, working under Joanne Walls (who is retiring Aug. 18 as principal), Sister Alma Rose Schlosser, Sister Mary Smith, Frank Farrell and Lizanne Pando.
Pando, the current president, described Garvin as “classy” and having a pleasant manner.
“Marge is the spirit and the soul of St. Hubert’s,” she said.
By 2012, when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that St. Hubert would close because of declining enrollment, Garvin had enough time on the job that she could have moved on to another school.
As it turned out, the school was saved and is flourishing.
“Thank God it never happened,” she said.
Garvin, who started in February 1981, never had a bad day on the job and enjoyed working with everyone at the school, especially the students.
“Our girls are wonderful kids,” she said.
Garvin has been training her replacement, Ivee Perez, a St. Hubert parent.
“The school will be in good hands. She’s pleasant,” the retiree said.
As for her future, Garvin, who turns a healthy 86 on Sept. 26, will not miss waking up at 6 a.m. every day or going to work in bad weather. She will enjoy spending more time with her adult children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Garvin plans to stay busy as a volunteer. Her parish, St. Timothy, has a variety of activities planned for its upcoming 90th anniversary celebration, and the parish school, Blessed Trinity, needs volunteers to sell Scrip.
And she’ll also continue to make baskets, wreaths and arts and crafts for St. Hubert-related fundraisers.
“If I’ve made up one, I’ve made up a thousand baskets,” she said.
Garvin will also return to Torresdale and Cottman, perhaps working at the St. Hubert bookstore or selling SEPTA student transpasses on Thursdays.
“I’m going to come back,” she said. “I can’t sit and be a bump on a log. I have to keep myself busy. I don’t want to be a couch potato.” ••