Marla Wiegand, a longtime Mammoth local and a Breakfast Club staple, died unexpectedly last week from a brain aneurysm. She was 69.
Marla lived off-and-on (mostly on) in Mammoth Lakes since 1979. She primarily worked as a server.
Which is also a fairly apt description of her character. Marla cared deeply about other people. Not just in thought, but in action.
She was the type of person who didn’t make an excuse or find something else to do when a friend needed help moving (just ask Sue Ebersold).
She was the type of person who would drive 90 minutes out of her way when a friend needed someone to take care of a grocery list (just ask Tamara Walker).
That was two days before she died.
Marla was a sweet soul who
cheered others in their successes and consoled them in their defeats. She was a terrific friend, neither petty nor jealous. Ever.
And she was the type of person you wanted riding shotgun on any roadtrip. Easygoing and fun and up for anything.
She and longtime friend Margie Castaneda had just roadtripped up to Reno in mid-January. The first stop they’d always make on their Reno trips: Macy’s in the Meadowood Mall.
When asked if she and Marla had ever had a disagreement in the near four decades since they met at Las Montanas (where Marla waitressed and bartended in the early ‘80s), Margie laughed and said, “Only once. On that last trip. I wanted to go to Denny’s and she was just adamant. “No!”
Las Montanas was also where Marla met Sue Ebersold. As Sue recalls, Marla was just super-friendly and fun to be around so Sue baked Marla a cake for her birthday.
“Why’d you bake me a cake?”
“Why not? I like you.”
That kicked off a beautiful friendship. Marla worked with Sue at the Breakfast Club off-and-on for pretty much the rest of her life.
Marla was a key component in makiing the Club a club – where folks would walk in as strangers and leave as friends.
Co-worker Mary Jo Huseth said Marla just loved talking to customers about where they’re from. In fact, she kept a map at home and put pins in it as her own geographical checklist.
What’s amazing about Marla was her ability to have those conversations and yet keep everything in her head. The Breakfast Club (at least when not in the throes of a pandemic) is a bustling place. But how she kept everything in her head was by having a whole private conversation – with herself. Marla zipping around the Club muttering to herself like she was half-crazed was always an endearing sight.
Marla was born in Santa Monica to Mary and Hank Wiegand. Make that Capt. Hank Wiegand, a World War II pilot who flew commercially for Western Airlines for four decades.
Marla grew up in Long Beach, and the family also had a cabin at Lake Arrowhead.
It was in Arrowhead where Tamara Walker met Marla in 1977. Both waitressed at the Royal Oak in nearby Blue Jay, Calif.
Two years later, the pair moved to Mammoth (see inset below right).
Tamara’s fondest memory: “Back in the day, we went ice skating at the Alkali ponds and decided to do a little topless skating,” recalled Tamara, “The dump guys drove past and just about ended up in the ditch.”
As friend Heather Fite says, “There were many in love with her back in the day.”
Of the adjectives Heather used to describe Marla, the first three stand out: giving, kind and unaffected.
Particularly unaffected. What you saw was what you got. And often what you got was whatever money or time or energy or love she had left to give.
On a personal note, I didn’t even know Marla’s last name until this past spring, when I asked the community for donations to support the newspaper. That’s when the name “Marla” came through on the donation list, and I don’t know about you, but in my life, there’s fittingly only been one Marla.
Marla was the sibling who moved home to take care of her parents in their final years.
Marla was the one dressed up in a cow outfit for the Fourth of July.
Marla was the one who would help Sue plan the annual Oscars party, and each year she and Sue would study the fashions of the day and each buy a new gown for the event.
Marla was the one you kept giving going away parties for and then she’d come back. One wonders if she would leave just because she liked a good party. Or maybe it’s because she loved everybody too much
As Heather said, “Marla recently gave me a heart-shaped stone. On it was etched , ‘The Ones We Love are Forever in Our Hearts.’
Look for details on a celebration for Marla when time and Covid permit.