Marilyn Duschl keeps Northwoods golden-agers moving
Marilyn Duschl’s first visit to the Northwoods was nearly 50 years ago when she came with her boyfriend, George, to visit his parents’ cabin in Three Lakes. That trip ended up being a peek into her future. The boyfriend was promoted to fiancé, and a relocation dream started.
“Once we got married, we knew we wanted to move up here,” she says.
They settled near Chicago, where both Marilyn and George grew up. Marilyn’s family had escaped the suburbs to vacation in the Lakeland and Hayward areas; George, like his father before him, had fond summer memories of fishing the clear water around Three Lakes.
Marilyn’s degree in exercise physiology led to a position as a high school physical education teacher, until their son, George, was born. Then, when her stay-at-home mom career came to a close, she accepted a full-time position at a hospital-based fitness center in Park Ridge. But before she accepted the position, she made an important arrangement with her employer.
“I negotiated six weeks off every summer,” she says.
Northwoods summer memories were handed down to another generation when they bought their own Three Lakes cabin in 1983. Those summers spent at the cabin weren’t just in the woods and on the water. Marilyn established friendships that she keeps to this day when she joined the tennis club in Eagle River. Their son attended and brought friends up to attend hockey camp.
The annual trek north continued for 18 years, until George retired and the couple realized their dream. In 2001, they joined his retired parents as year-round residents of Three Lakes.
After the move, Marilyn continued working in her field, eventually being hired as the wellness director for the YMCA when it opened in 2004. She oversaw all the fitness staff and facilitated the opening of the YMCA in Eagle River. In 2011, she moved to part-time and became the active older adult coordinator, where she combines her passion for both wellness and the Northwoods.
During her three-day work week, she teaches four to seven fitness classes, including SilverSneakers, a national exercise program sponsored by supplemental Medicare insurance programs, offered specifically to help seniors maintain their health. The program pays for membership at the YMCA or SilverSneakers classes.
“Seniors really want to be there, they have an added incentive for exercising,” Marilyn says. “They’re motivated by a feeling of not wanting to get older, and a desire to maintain daily living skills and remain independent.”
From trying to control high blood pressure or diabetes, to strengthening before surgery or recovery afterward, Marilyn is rewarded with a common, heartfelt refrain when teaching her classes: “I need to be here.”
Marilyn also organizes local events called Golden Adventures, which includes activities such as hiking or snowshoeing, tours, such as an upcoming trip to Trig’s Smokehouse, and speakers. The Seniors on the Move bulletin board at the Y posts information about the upcoming trips, which take place on the third Tuesday of the month.
She keeps her finger on the pulse of the community through her senior advisory committee, a group of 12 she recruited who meet once a month to help decide new programs, organize and run fundraisers, and give feedback on programs and needs of seniors in the community.
“While I was in touch with the community, I felt it could be even better,” Marilyn says. “What I think might be really great to do might not be…. They say, ‘This is what I’ve heard; this is what I’ve seen.’ Some suggestions come from comments overhead in the locker room.”
She tries to switch up membership a little, to get fresh ideas. “Recently I added a lady who came here from a Y in Minneapolis.”
One great idea from her committee was to have a fish boil fund raiser. They also fund raise with an annual plant sale and occasional dances, but the fish boil brings in the most funds, Marilyn says. The money raised, in part, helps fund the scholarships that the Y gives to those who can’t afford a membership.
“We have approximately one thousand scholarships,” Marilyn notes.
She also stays connected and active apart from work. She plays tennis with the same group in Eagle River that she first met when summering here. She and her husband enjoy snowmobiling and wave running with a dedicated group of friends. She also likes to snowshoe, cross country ski and craft.
“I’ve always done some sort of craft, always sewed. My neighbor got me into quilting.” Marilyn enjoys the creativity of quilting, and works mostly on wall hangings.
One activity at which she is content spectating is when her husband, and sometimes her son, who visits from Chicago, head out on the water with their poles. “My husband and son love to fish,” she says. “I love being on the water with them.”
Jill Olson is a freelance writer who lives in Rhinelander. Her articles have also appeared in Living on the Lake and Northwoods Commerce magazines.