The Marshall sisters 

Mountain romantics on a mission

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"When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it."

- Theodore Roosevelt

It all started with an invitation. "We don't know each other," the letter-writer began, "but my sister and I have lived in this town for a long time. And it just so happens that we're having a Happy Party at Dusty's on December 12th (12-12-12!) to celebrate living in such a beautiful place and calling it home for all these years. I think you should write about it in your column."

And then, almost as an afterthought — like "Hey — we have a pretty good story to tell too," — she added: "My sister and I have lived in Whistler 30 (Tricia) and 27 (me) years and I have been a wedding planner here for over 20 years ... about to do my 1,000 wedding this next year. If you wanted to ask us about the party or about our lives in Whistler that would be great..."

Sadly, it was too late to promote their Happy Party in this column, but I sensed a good tale in the sisters' Whistler adventures. So I quickly made plans to meet with them. And I'm so glad I did.

There are few people on this planet as upbeat and positive as Linda Marshall and her younger sis, Tricia Field ("We're still known throughout the valley as the Marshall Sisters," confides Tricia. "It's just that I got married along the way.") And there are few people who appear to have such a good time with life as these two siblings. I mean, besides being great friends and (former) business partners, they seem to complement each other so nicely. But I'm getting ahead of myself again. Let's start at the beginning.

It was Tricia — the youngest of the three Victoria-based Marshall sisters — who first settled down in Whistler. "I was attending Camosun College at the time," she says, "and studying in hotel and restaurant management. One of my profs there — Albert Van Citters — would regularly take his students up to Whistler." She stops. Smiles. "And I guess I just fell in love with the place..."

After graduating from the program, Tricia took a job with the Delta chain of hotels. "I worked at the Laurel Point Inn in Victoria," she says, "but what I really wanted was a transfer to Whistler's Delta Mountain Inn." She eventually got her wish. "I had to take a $3/hour cut in pay to do it," she says. And laughs. "But that didn't matter to me. I was moving to Whistler!"

The year was 1982. And times were tough in Sea to Sky country. Whistler was mired deep in a recession; half the buildings in the newly launched town centre had yet to rise from their yawning foundations. But for the 21-year old newcomer, life couldn't get much better. "I just loved Whistler," says Tricia. "I had a job and a place to live, and all sorts of outdoor activities to keep me busy. It was a great new beginning."

Like most young people living in Whistler in those days, Tricia had to supplement her meager hotel wages with a second — and in her case, a third — job. "I was so-o-o-o busy — teaching skiing on Whistler, working at the Delta... and baking cakes at Florentyna's."

Baking cakes? At Florentyna's? "That's right," she says, "Ron Hosner let me use the kitchen as long as I supplied him with his desserts."

Okay. Moment of nostalgia for longtime Whistlerites. Remember Mountain Muffins? I do — they were both filling and delicious, and quickly earned iconic status in the valley. "I had a background in cake decoration," explains Tricia, "so it wasn't that big of a stretch for me." Still, her Mountain Muffins were big news. "We were written up in The Answer (Whistler's then-alternative weekly) and everything," she laughingly tells me. "I was known as the Cake Lady in those days. And I can tell you — my cakes and muffins made the rounds!"

Meanwhile, her older sister, Linda, was still in Victoria, still employed in school administration, and still wondering if this was the path she really wanted to take through life. In 1985, she decided to apply for a leave of absence from her school in order to travel to Europe. "My plan," says Linda, "was to spend some time there, get a job, you know, live the European lifestyle." But things didn't quite turn out that way. "I got sick," she sighs, "and had to come home to recuperate."

On a whim, Linda decided to visit her sister at Whistler. "I came here to relax," she admits. "But there were employment opportunities at the Delta Inn, so..." She smiles. Sighs. "Before I knew it, I was working in the sales office there."

Linda launched Creations And Delights in 1989. "It was essentially a gift shop," she says, "but a gift shop that specialized in cards and balloons." She laughs again. "Remember the '80s? Remember how popular balloons were back then?"

But Creations and Delights provided a base of operations for a much more ambitious project. "There weren't any event planners at Whistler in those days," Linda reminds me. "So we started organizing special events. You know, anniversaries, birthdays, children's parties... that kind of thing."

Tricia throws in: "We did it all ourselves. I would bake the cakes and goodies and Linda would be the clown." She smiles. "We've always worked well together; always made a really good team."

Linda: "There weren't a lot of people putting on fancy events in those days. So we were asked to do really funky things." She stops. Takes a breath. Laughs some more. "But our attitude was always — no problem. Whatever you want, we can do it..."

Her wedding business — the thing she's best known for in Whistler — kind of grew organically. "We did our first wedding by helicopter and it was staged at the top of Blackcomb," recounts Linda. "I think it was the mayor at the time, Ted Nebbeling who'd recommended us. ..."

The ceremony was held at Crystal Hut, "And we really went to town on it," adds sister Tricia. "Champagne, strawberries, a fully catered meal — we skimped on nothing."

And the word got around quickly — if you wanted a top-notch wedding at Whistler, Linda Marshall was the person to see.

"It's amazing how many weddings I've organized over the years. I was thinking of that a few weeks ago during Florence Peterson's memorial. We worked on so many of them together — she as the wedding commissioner and me as the planner." She stops. Lets a sad smile pass across her face. "I'm really going to miss that woman..."

Neither Tricia nor Linda is a big self-promoter. But when I ask them to list a few of the celebrations they'd put together over the years, the names they threw back at me sounded like a virtual Who's Who of Whistler society... and then some. "We did Nancy Greene's 50th birthday party, and Rob Boyd's wedding, and Britt Janyk's and Willie Raine's and Arthur Griffith's — even Kathy and Bob Barnett's..." And 995 more.

Which brings us back full circle to the December 12th party. Two reasons for it, Linda tells me. "First of all," she says, "we've been having far too many memorial services in Whistler." She sighs. "It seems that the only time the old guard gets together these days is to say goodbye to another deceased pal." It was Deanna White, she explains, who first came up with the idea of holding a "happy" party. "But we couldn't agree on a date... or a venue," continues Linda. "We didn't have any funds to work with, and that kind of limited our options. So we kept putting off the party."

But then it all came together. "People are quite superstitious about their wedding dates," Linda tells me. "You know, they want it on 07-07-07 or 08-08-08." She stops talking. Takes a long breath. "Well, I'm a true romantic," she says, "And I always dreamed of getting married on 12-12-12."

Unfortunately, she hasn't found the right man for the job yet. "So I thought to myself: "No point in wasting such an auspicious date. Let's have our "Happy Party" on 12-12-12.' And everyone thought that was a great idea. So that's what we're doing..."

The party was held last night at Dusty's. It was a huge hit. I'll have more on the celebrations next week. In the meantime: Think Happy. We're all extremely fortunate to be living in such a beautiful, inspiring spot.

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