On Tuesday, Marlene Dreiling posted a notice at the Guadalupe Clinic saying there was a special meeting for all the staff.
They were all to attend.
It was a surprise Valentine’s Day party to thank them for all the hard work they had done.
“Nobody realized the reason, let alone Marlene, of why she was doing it. She was just doing it as an example of loving them and thanking them,” said Alice Wiggins, a volunteer at the clinic.
The next day, the staff and much of Wichita was reeling with the news that Mrs. Dreiling – the director of the Guadalupe Clinic for the past 13 years, had died of natural causes. She was 61.
Rosary will be 7 p.m. Sunday at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Schulte. A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Schulte.
Guadalupe Clinic’s two locations will be closed until Tuesday.
She was born Marlene Batt on Feb. 2, 1951, in the Kansas town of Nashville, about an hour west of Wichita.
She went to grade school and high school in Zenda.
“She was fun loving, a good person, and even as kid liked to help people,” said her cousin, Richard Kerschen, vice president of the Guadalupe Clinic’s board of directors.
He credited the success of the clinic to her big heart.
“She was not only able to show that compassion to the people who came in but was able to pass that compassion on to her staff. A lot of them are long-term volunteers or employees who have been there 20 years or more,” he said.
Her hobbies, Kerschen said, was her family and her work.
“Marlene, in her own way, tried to do what Mother Teresa did, and that was to see the face of God in all the people we serve,” Kerschen said.
Marlene married Thomas Dreiling on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1975, in Zenda.
She attended Hutchinson Community College. She received her undergraduate degree in 1973 and her master’s in 1978, both from Wichita State University. She spent 35 years in nursing.
She was an instructor at St. Mary’s of the Plains College in Dodge City and also was an instructor and clinical educator at WSU from 1992 until 1999.
In 1997, Mrs. Dreiling started working at Guadalupe Clinic as a volunteer nurse. She was hired as its director two years later.
“This is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” she told The Eagle in 2010. “I think it is because every day you see you’re helping the neediest of the needy.”
The Guadalupe Clinic is run by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita to provide medical care to people who don’t have health insurance. It has two locations: 940 S. St. Francis and 2825 S. Hillside.
Last September the clinic lost another key person with the death of Sister Kathleen Regan, who led fundraising efforts for the clinic and was instrumental in founding the Midwest Winefest.
“Marlene was an integral force behind the scenes of the Midwest Winefest along with the late Sister Kathleen Regan,” said Peggy DiStefano, Winefest coordinator. “This year’s event will honor the legacies of both of these selfless women.” The Winefest is scheduled for April 19-21.
DiStefano recalled her friend as “vivacious, thoughtful and a go-getter.”
Wiggins said that she was always impressed with the manner Mrs. Dreiling treated her staff and the clients of Guadalupe Clinic.
“Marlene was always there to step in and help if she could personally and professionally,” Wiggins said.
The board will discuss naming an interim director next week, said Daniel Loughman, chairman of the clinic’s board of directors. “We need to let the shock get out of the way,” Loughman said. “As a board we will make that decision. Right now, God bless the staff, we are all working together. Everything is on hold.”
The Webb-Shinkle Mortuary in Clearwater is in charge of services.
She is survived by her husband, Thomas; children, Nicole (Adam) Pracht, Clearwater; Crystal, Wichita; Nathan, Cunningham; C.J., Wichita; twin sister, Darlene (Dennis) Oeding, Spivey; brother, George (Denise) Batt, Murdock; and three grandchildren, Grace, Thomas and Charles Pracht.
Memorials have been established in Mrs. Dreiling’s name with Guadalupe Clinic, 940 S. St. Francis, Wichita, KS67211; and St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church Building Fund, 11000 Southwest Blvd., Schulte, KS 67215.