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Marsh retires after 22 years with Brainerd YMCA

Linda Marsh cares for her brood in the Brainerd Family YMCA day-care Wednesday. 1 / 3
Linda Marsh holds Martin Hastings (left) and Max Lavold in the Brainerd Family Y2 / 3
Linda Marsh holds Martin Hastings (left) and Max Lavold in the Brainerd Family Y3 / 3

All good things must come to an end.

For Brainerd resident Linda Marsh, 22 years worth of good things will draw to a close today.

With more than two decades under her belt and hundreds of kids having been under her care, Marsh is retiring from her job in the child care center at the Brainerd Family YMCA.

“It just doesn’t feel real,” Marsh said Wednesday.

Marsh started at the YMCA as a substitute for the child care center while she was at home raising her own children. “They just kept calling me, so I kept coming back,” Marsh recalled. She said she has always been in the infant or toddler rooms at the center and has made it her goal to make the children in her care feel as much at home as possible.

“I’m trying to give them the second best day if they can’t be home with their mom,” Marsh said.

Pastor Kristin Oltmann’s son Kyle spent much of the first year of his life in Marsh’s care, something Oltmann said meant the world to her.

“As new parents, both with full-time jobs, to be able to drop our infant off with her and be completely confident that he would be loved, nurtured, and safe was invaluable,” Oltmann said in an email.

Oltmann’s son, Kyle, now nearly 2, is somewhat of a picky eater, and Oltmann said it’s Marsh’s words of wisdom that assured her Kyle was going to turn out just fine.

“She said she had never seen a grown man only eat cheese, crackers, and pears, so at some point, some time, Kyle will start eating a variety of foods,” Oltmann said. “She always shared her wisdom in a very kind and compassionate ways.”

During her 22 years at YMCA, Marsh said she has had multiple sets of siblings and now even works with one young lady who was once in the infant room and is now a junior in high school and works at the front desk at the YMCA.

“It used to make me feel old,” Marsh laughed. “But I’m not surprised by anything anymore.”

Marsh said she has learned many lessons over the years from working with small children. “I learned that everybody gets teeth, everybody gets out of diapers and everybody walks eventually,” she said. “But if we see them walk first, we never say a word.”

Marsh said she has also learned that children like to play with each other rather than grown-ups and they fall down. A lot. “They always look to you to see if they got hurt,” she said. “They’re very different but they’re all the same.”

Marsh said 22 years of working with children has helped her discover some tricks to make things run smoothly. She often shares her lunches with the kids in her care, has an arsenal of diapers and back-up clothing and she said she has every pacifier ever made.

“It’s taken years,” she said. “But I finally have it down.”

Marsh said on of the things she has appreciated throughout her years of working at the Y is the way her co-workers have worked together and the bond they share.

“My co-workers are just wonderful,” Marsh said. “Hopefully we’ll still get together.”

Marsh said in retirement she plans to continue subbing for the child care center at the Y. Along with her continued presence at the Y, Marsh has other plans as well. “I have a list three feet long and in fine print,” she laughed. On her list is reading books — lots of books, playing video games and continuing adding to her collections of house and baby dolls. “I’m hoping to complete some of my collections,” Marsh said.

Marsh said she is still having a difficult time grasping the idea of not coming to work on Friday.

“I’m going to miss the kids,” she said. “I’m going to really miss my co-workers.”

Child Care Director Christa Andersen said she is proud of the impact Marsh has had on the lakes community and her departure from the YMCA is bittersweet.

“She’s raised a lot of babies in this community,” Andersen said. “She’s been a great asset to our infant room and a great friend ­— it’s hard to lose someone you’ve seen everyday for 22 years.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.