Moving with Marilyn

Today, Marilyn Mangano of Tiffin turns 74, but she tries not to think about her age. She is too busy enjoying her retirement.

A member of St. Mary Church, Mangano distributes communion, helps prepare and serve funeral lunches and works at the parish’s summer festivals. If she looks familiar, it is probably because she is a frequent volunteer at Mercy Tiffin Hospital and the Allen Eiry Center. Curves is another hangout for this active senior.

“I’ve done Curves since they opened. … I hate exercise, but I know I should do it. I do it because it keeps me flexible,” Mangano said. “I don’t diet. I like to eat out too much. Who wants to cook?”

Walking is OK, but the social element at the exercise sessions keeps Mangano going back to be among the friends she has made over the past 10 years of membership. The group has breakfast together once a month and goes out to lunch once a month. They call themselves “The Grapevine Girls” after a movement they do in class.

“It’s just fun. Two days a week, I go in there, and it keeps me moving,” she said.


therapy and crafts

A retired occupational therapist, Mangano knows all about mobility, although her biggest “move” was relocating to Ohio from Minnesota. When she graduated from high school in 1958, she enrolled in nursing school. At the time, she had never heard of occupational therapy.

“When I was at college that first year, I heard about OT. I thought, ‘What’s OT?,’ Mangano said. “They did arts and crafts a lot more in those days than they do now. They used it as an activity to get people to get exercise.”

That line of work appealed to Mangano, so she changed her major. She has no regrets about her choice, but she admitted occupational therapy has undergone many changes. Therapists do even more now to help people return to daily activities after a stroke or injury. They show patients changes that can be made to adapt routines for their physical condition. It may mean switching to clothing that is easy to put on, storing household objects within easier reach, or doing a given task at a different time of day.

Now, she is utilizing some of those tactics herself.

“One of the things I learned as an OT is work simplification and energy conservation. When you have had a stroke, you need to conserve your energy and only do the things you have to do,” Mangano said.

During college, students in occupational therapy had to do clinicals in a variety of settings. Mangano said she had never been away from her home state, so it was a chance for some adventure. In her junior and senior years, she practiced at a facility in New York state. Next, she went to Highland View Hospital in Cleveland, which is a physical rehabilitation hospital similar to the one in Green Springs.

Highland View offered Mangano a job once she earned her degree, and she accepted.

Returning to Highland View in January 1963, she met Joe Mangano, her husband- to-be. A Cleveland native and physical therapist, he came to work at the hospital about two weeks after Marilyn started.

“The funniest part of the whole thing is, we had to do this program together. All the PTs and OTs did programs for the staff, like continuing ed, and we had to talk about physics. I knew nothing about physics,” Mangano said.

Joe Mangano had studied at Heidelberg College, and he liked Tiffin. He told Marilyn they should move there when they got married.

As it happened, the Betty Jane Center was looking for a therapist. Fred Fabrizio, a classmate of Joe’s from PT school, had just come back to Tiffin from working in Illinois. Marilyn and Joe even stayed with the Fabrizios for about a week until they could find their own place.

“I’ve been here ever since,” Marilyn said.

She also worked at Green Springs part-time while she was expecting her daughter. She also has a son, Andrew, so Mangano stayed home with them until they were in school.

About that time, Fabrizio called periodically, saying his company needed an occupational therapist to fulfill its contracts in the area. Mangano finally gave in and was assigned to Tiffin Developmental Center.

“I thought I’d go out there for a week or two and ended up being out there for 21 years. I had never worked with MR/DD in my life. That was a first. I’d always done physical rehab. I had a lot to learn, but the staff out there was good to work with. They must have liked me because they kept me around. That’s where I retired from,” she said.

In 1999, Mangano left the center and worked in the company’s corporate office for another year. She and another employee were assigned to review therapists’ notes for Medicare claims at the company’s clinics.

Crafts are an extension of Mangano’s career as an occupational therapist, and it keeps her occupied. She likes to do cross-stitch, knitting and crochet in front of the television. A friend got her interested in making jewelry. There is “a cool bead shop” in Findlay where she can get new ideas and materials, she said.

Mangano also enjoys word puzzles, “goofy games” and reading at least two books a week. She especially likes mysteries by Catherine Coulter and a few others in that genre. One lighted Kindle remains in Mangano’s bedroom for night-time reading. The other usually can be found in her purse to read while waiting for an appointment or on a snowy winter afternoon at home.

“Once you buy a Kindle and you’re connected with Amazon, you never have to worry about finding a book. … but mysteries are the ones I like the best,” Mangano said, “And I can read more than one book at a time.”

Mercy Hospital, Mobile Meals

Mangano was chosen as “Ms. December” for the 2013 Mercy Tiffin Hospital calendar. She has been a hospital volunteer for more than 30 years, mostly in the gift shop. Mangano helped to move the gift shop merchandise to the new hospital. She likes the extra space and the updated cash register system. She said some of the gift shop volunteers left because they didn’t want to learn the new system. At the old location, Mangano said the cash drawer always seemed to be out of balance.

“Sister Ann Louise was in charge and I’d say, ‘This isn’t coming out right. Why isn’t it? If you start with $50, it should come out right.’ I hated that. I don’t have to do that any more,” Mangano said.

In 1970, she spearheaded the Mobile Meals program at the hospital and stayed with it for about 25 years. Since then, the program has grown and expanded. Mangano called it “a fluke” that she became involved.

“I was in Junior Women’s League and the Council on Aging called and said, ‘We need somebody to run a Mobile Meals program. Do you think your club would want to do it?’ I happened to be the one that answered the phone. When I took it to the club, they said, ‘That sounds good. Why don’t you do it?’ That’s how I got into that,” Mangano recalled.

With no idea how to organize such a project, she and a few other volunteers went to observe a meal program in Toledo. Mangano set up a board to oversee the program and requested funding from the National Machinery Foundation and the Frost Foundation to subsidize people who could not afford to pay for the meals.

“I know I just called whoever was in charge of the foundations. They were all for it. Frost is specifically for seniors and kids’ programs in town. … They took care of us for a lot of years until we were self-supporting,” Mangano said.

It took a year to get the program started. The first meal was delivered in January 1971. Mangano remembered Mobile Meals volunteers delivered a week’s worth of breakfast foods, including cereal, milk and bread, every Monday for clients who wanted them. Like today, the hot meal came at noon.

Although Junior Women’s League supported the meal program the first year, it was more than the club could manage on a long-term basis. Mercy Hospital took it over with Mangano continuing as director. Most of those years, she did the billing for the program. When she bowed out, the hospital continued it for about five more years before turning it over to the Commission on Aging.

“I never thought I’d be with it for 25 years. I had a good group of people working with me,” Mangano said. “That was a good program. It still is.”

Allen Eiry

For eight years, Mangano has served on the Allen Eiry Center board. This is to be her last year, due to term limits for board members. As a result, she has been involved in the move from Orchard Park and in the renovation of the Hopewell Avenue building.

She said the board is active and interested in the center.

“I think things look good for the future,” she said.

Mangano joined the center while she was working, so she was not able to take advantage of all the programs there. As work tapered, Mangano tried some of the activities. She and her husband also signed up for many of the center’s trips. Whenever the bus pulls out, Marilyn tries to be on it.

“I don’t care about the destination; I like the journey. I don’t care where we’re going. I just want to go,” she said.

Joe also liked the travel opportunities. When heart problems slowed him, he still could manage the trips. They appreciated not having to drive or make any of the arrangements. The bus would drop them off at the door. After she retired, the Manganos took several trips together before Joe died in 2001. The support of friends helped her through the loss.

“The thing about traveling with Allen Eiry that I like is, you know everybody that’s on the bus. A lot of the same people travel, so it’s like one big happy family,” Mangano said. “I have met so many people I would have never known in a million years if I hadn’t been traveling and been a part of Allen Eiry. It’s amazing. People need to be more aware of that.”

To benefit the center, Mangano produces hand-made greeting cards that are sold for $3 each. She said she used to teach scrapbooking classes at a photo shop and at the library. Her collection of rubber stamps, colored inks and other items go into the cards. Multiple cards are made from one pattern or design. After making more cards than she could send, Mangano decided to donate them to Allen Eiry.

“And I donated them to St. Francis Home when I was on the auxiliary there. They give cards out to the people who are ill, so I would make the cards and donate them. It’s something I enjoy doing and I can give them away. I don’t need to keep all of them,” she said. “I don’t cook or clean. I make cards. That’s my thing.”

Family, hobbies

Besides Allen Eiry trips, Mangano also travels to visit her children and grandchildren. Her daughter, Susan, is a pharmacist who lives in Cincinnati with her husband. Their twin daughters are about to turn 14. Mangano’s son, Andrew, has followed in his dad’s footsteps. He and his wife are physical therapists who work at a clinic in Barberton. They and their two daughters live in Wadsworth.

If Mangano were not busy enough, she also plays in a bridge club once a month and belongs to a knitting group. They get together monthly to knit and occasionally to visit yarn shops. Theatrical productions at The Ritz and on Eiry trips, especially to Playhouse Square in Cleveland, are another favorite activity.

“I also play dominos. There’s a group of us seniors that like playing this ‘Mexican train’ game, so we play dominos. We go out to the Golden Crown for lunch once a month and play dominos for the afternoon – the joys of retirement,” she said.