Community

A giving spirit: Christmas comes early for beloved Mount Vernon woman

Mickena Guillaume of Ely, from left, paints a window Thursday as her mother-in-law and co-owner of the Skillet Cafe, Cherie Guillaume, and Mickena’s husband (and Cherie’s son) Nathan Guillaume hang garland in the restaurant’s windows facing First Street in Mount Vernon. A number of downtown Mount Vernon businesses decorated their storefront windows for the holidays early this year so a longtime resident can have one last Christmas. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Mickena Guillaume of Ely, from left, paints a window Thursday as her mother-in-law and co-owner of the Skillet Cafe, Cherie Guillaume, and Mickena’s husband (and Cherie’s son) Nathan Guillaume hang garland in the restaurant’s windows facing First Street in Mount Vernon. A number of downtown Mount Vernon businesses decorated their storefront windows for the holidays early this year so a longtime resident can have one last Christmas. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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MOUNT VERNON — Throughout the early days of fall, Mount Vernon residents hung Christmas lights at home, city workers placed wreaths on lampposts and merchants strung garland across shop windows.

The decorations were up nearly two months early this year for one longtime resident: Marsha Light, a beloved local who was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. She stopped treatment over the summer.

“Marsha wanted one last Christmas before she passes away,” her sister, Paulette Hearn, said. “We’re trying to spend as much time as we can together.”

When friends and neighbors heard about the family’s plans to have Christmas on Sunday, nearly everyone seemed ready to support them, City Administrator Chris Nosbisch said.

“As cheesy as it sounds, it’s just kind of Mount Vernon,” Nosbisch said. “If this is somebody’s desire to see one last time, then we’re going to do it. We don’t get caught up in the politics of it all. It’s just about Marsha and giving her one last Christmas.”

More lights were going up around town every day, Nosbisch said. The owner of the downtown Skillet Cafe, Cherie Guillaume, decorated her storefront last week.

“What I like about it the most is hopefully it will show her how much she’s loved, and the whole family,” said Guillaume, who employs one of Light’s three children. “I don’t know that everyone gets that before they leave — a visual that you made a difference in a whole lot of lives.”

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Fake snow fell Sunday morning outside the Light home and dozens of carolers filled the lawn to sing Christmas songs.

“I know she was looking forward to today,” said Jena Jaspers, a longtime friend. “She sat in her wheelchair, and she was singing along and smiling. She was super happy about it.”

The family planned to drive through the light-filled downtown area on their way to the home of Marsha Light’s parents, near Cedar Rapids, for Christmas dinner.

Light is known for her dedication to her family, Jaspers said, and for being a big sports fan. Her children attend Mount Vernon schools and her husband, Vance Light, is head wrestling coach at Mount Vernon High.

“Anybody who knows her knows her as the most giving person,” Jaspers said. “Through these 12 years she’s never once complained. … She’s concerned about everybody else. That’s just how she is — even though she’s feeling badly, she’s caring about you.”

It’s a giving spirit and selflessness that Light’s sister said she hopes will carry on.

“Marsha would want people to focus on being good to one another,” Hearn said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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