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Gathering Place celebrates founder's memory

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Stacy Vogel
October 10, 2008
— The lady might be gone, but the house that Marion Allen built still is going strong.

Thursday, seniors and other community members gathered at that house, The Gathering Place, to celebrate the 100th birthday of Milton's Southern belle.


They remembered a generous, fun-loving lady who knew what she wanted—and how to get it.


"She never met a man she didn't like, and she could sweet-talk 'em all," said Lynn Kevern, nutrition site coordinator at The Gathering Place and a friend of Allen's. "She just had that Southern charm."


And Southern hospitality. Many remembered when Allen, a Georgia native, invited all of Milton to her 90th birthday party. She set up tents in her yard and provided a Southern dinner, a band and even fireworks.


"Marion always liked a good party," Kevern said.


Perhaps Allen's greatest act of hospitality was The Gathering Place itself. She was a volunteer at Milton's nutrition site at St. Mary Catholic Church when she realized the seniors had no place of their own to go.


She planned The Gathering Place and paid for the building, never revealing how much it cost.


Allen planned the center to look like a Southern home, complete with cozy library, sun porch and picture windows, said Deb Weberpal, the center's first executive director.


She took a hands-on role in the process, continually updating the builder about what she wanted.


"She changed her mind so many times the constructors said, ‘Make up your mind,'" Agnes Hanauska said.


Hanauska remembered Allen's generosity in other ways, too. Six of her grandchildren received scholarships from Allen, she said.


Allen gave scholarships to Milton High School and UW-Rock County students and established a "Silent Angel Fund" to provide emergency money to UW-Rock students in need. She was a key donor to UW-Rock's new building, which the college named Allen Hall.


She taught Sunday school, housed college students and served with the American Red Cross, Milton Public Library, Milton Historical Society and other organizations.


"She was such a wonderfully warm person, you'd have no idea she had all that money," Weberpal said. "She was always volunteering. She loved kids."


Allen died in 2007 at the age of 98.


But her legacy lives on at The Gathering Place, at Allen Hall and with the thousands of lives she touched, admirers said Thursday.


"She just gave us a place to be in town, where seniors could have a home away from home," Weberpal said. "That was her dream."



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