Remembering Marie Warder

Posted November 12th, 2014 by webadmin


Marie Warder CroppedJournalist, author, educator, musician, and activist, Marie Warder spent nearly half of her life battling the ravages of the genetic iron overload disorder, hereditary hemochromatosis.

Marie was predeceased by her much adored husband, Tom. She leaves behind her daughter Leigh and son-in-law Bruce; her son Shaun and his partner Karen; her grandchildren, Melissa, Simon, Bianca, Dylan and his wife Peggy; her great-grandchildren, Dexter, Curtis, Michael and Samantha; and legions of fans and friends.

Marie was born in Ficksburg, South Africa. She began her journalism career in 1936 with an entry into a province-wide essay competition which won her first prize. Marie followed that up with her children’s play, The Secret of the Kennels, and wrote stories for local newspapers, South African periodicals and a British magazine. At 17, Marie became the youngest chief reporter in the world, working for the Germiston Advocate. During her journalistic career, Marie interviewed some of the world’s most famous people, including Pat Boone and Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts.

Marie married Tom Warder when she was 19 and he 21, upon his return from active service in World War II. She played piano and clavioline in Tom’s dance band; founded the Windsor House Academy in Kempton, South Africa, and served as the school’s first principal; and, for a few years, worked as a public relations officer for the Lyon’s Tea Company, becoming somewhat of an expert on tea. She later brought this talent to Calgary, Canada, where she appeared on a weekly afternoon show in the late 70’s, talking about the origins and culture of tea. Over her lifetime, Marie authored 24 novels in Afrikaans and English. Three of these books were required reading in South African schools. Before immigrating to Canada, Marie was listed among South Africa’s top seven “favourite novelists”, by a South African book club. Her biography is included in the Archives of the National Council of Women among “Notable Women of Johannesburg”.

The Warders moved to Canada in 1977. When both Tom and their daughter, Leigh, were diagnosed with hemochromatosis, Marie was spurred to become an activist, warning the medical community and general public about the dangers of iron overload and its potential to devastate families and future generations if left undiagnosed and untreated. Marie dedicated her time and often her own funds to raise awareness of hereditary hemochromatosis in Canada and around the world by founding the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society, the Haemochromatosis Society of South Africa, and the International Association of Haemochromatosis Societies. She published more than 300 articles on the subject of hemochromatosis, as well as patient literature for individuals, hospitals and other medical facilities. Her newsletters and brochures have gone out to more than 16 countries. Marie also wrote the ground-breaking book devoted to the subject of hemochromatosis, The Bronze Killer.

The Canadian Hemochromatosis Society grew in recognition and activity level under the tireless guidance and leadership of Marie. Many of these years the CHS operated out of Marie’s and Tom’s home, with files kept under the bed. However, as Charles Magill writes in his story on Marie in the October 1995 Reader’s Digest, “As the society grew, so did Marie’s anguish over Tom’s worsening condition. Arthritis crippled his hands, and joint disease in his feet made walking agony. Angina prevented him from sleeping, and twice, heart attacks landed him in intensive care.”

After Tom passed away, Marie found solace in keeping herself busier than ever. However, her own health faltered. Before she stepped down as President of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society in 1994, she was able to persuade the Canadian Red Cross to accept blood donations from people with hemochromatosis, convince Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada to have the term “reduced iron” on food labels (which was often misinterpreted by hemochromatosis sufferers as having a reduced quantity of iron) replaced by “iron”, and present at the World Health Organization meeting on the prevention and control of hemochromatosis, held in Israel.

As Marie recovered from her health issues, and through the following years, she continued to help those with hemochromatosis. Where she worked as a lay chaplain at Delta Hospital, near her home in Tsawwassen, BC, she would often see patients with symptoms of hemochromatosis, and seize any opportunity to present them with information on the disorder. She often received emails from newly diagnosed individuals with questions and expressions of gratitude for her book, The Bronze Killer. Marie blogged about hemochromatosis, and was an avid user of social media to get the word out about the disorder. In recent years, unable to type and restricted to the use of a wheelchair, Marie would use a voice recognition device to write her books, emails, and online content. The days she thought she would let go of hemochromatosis, hemochromatosis would not let go of her. Even a few weeks prior to her passing, Marie forwarded a request she received to the office of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society by an individual looking for more information.

While Marie did not crusade against hemochromatosis for any awards, she was recognized nationally and internationally for her achievements. In 1988, Marie received a certificate of appreciation from Mayor G. J. Blair of Richmond, BC, in recognition for her contribution to voluntary service in that city. In 1991, Health and Welfare Canada presented her with the Canada Volunteer Medal of Honour for her work raising awareness of hemochromatosis. In 2011, Marie received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International BioIron Conference held in Vancouver, BC, honouring her “lifelong involvement and dedication to the awareness and advocacy for hemochromatosis around the world”.

After several years of deteriorating health, Marie had to be hospitalized in late September, 2014. Her family and friends were with her for the last few days of her life, communicating with her as much as was possible, and saying their “goodbyes.” In the early hours of October 20th, Marie slipped away peacefully at the Delta Hospital.

Marie was a soldier in the battle against iron. Marie’s talents, skills, aptitude, fortitude and commitment have saved thousands of Canadians and others around the globe from the preventable hazards of hemochromatosis, and helped countless others find an early diagnosis. Marie Warder was the knight fighting a noble fight against the dragon known as The Bronze Killer.

A memorial will be held for Marie at St. David’s Anglican Church, 1115 51A St, Tsawwassen, BC, on November, 19th, 2014 at 11 a.m.

Donations to the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society at 285 – 7000 Minoru Blvd., Richmond, BC V6Y 3Z5 or at are suggested in lieu of flowers.