Trailblazing social service volunteer and philanthropist Mrs Anne Marden died on Tuesday at her home in Shek O. She was 96 and had been in frail health with Parkinson’s disease. Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressed deep sorrow over the passing of Mrs Marden.
Mrs Marden, who was married to the late John Marden, “taipan” of preeminent trading conglomerate Wheelock Marden & Co Ltd, was a pioneer of modern social services in Hong Kong’s non-government sector. Charitable organisations she helped to launch decades ago are today an integral part of Hong Kong’s social service landscape.
She championed the rights of the underprivileged, especially children, strove to improve life and opportunities for Hong Kong’s physically handicapped and used her personal standing to encourage acceptance of marginalised people – from refugees to women sex workers.
"She was personally involved in many charities in Hong Kong for over half a century, playing both leadership and advocacy roles. It is no exaggeration to say that Mrs Marden's contributions reflected the development of social welfare in Hong Kong for the past several decades,” Carrie Lam said.
Lam added that Mrs Marden dedicated her life to serving others and helped thousands of people with special needs to lead a dignified and meaningful life. "I am saddened by the passing of Mrs Marden. On behalf of the HKSAR Government, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to her family."
Born in Shanghai in 1926, Mrs Marden arrived in Hong Kong with her husband in 1947 from the UK. Surrounded at their Pokfulam home by refugees pouring in from China, they offered help to many.
From 1960 to 1965, Mrs Marden was director of the Hong Kong Red Cross and presided over the inauguration in 1962 of Hong Kong’s first residential school for physically handicapped children.
She was patron of the Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth; founder, director, and permanent patron of the Rehabaid Society for people with physical disabilities and special needs; vice patron of the Hong Kong branch of International Social Service assisting migrants, divided families, asylum seekers and refugees, among others; a co-founder of TREATS bringing together children with different abilities and backgrounds, and honorary president of Playright.
“Anne was definitely one of the heroes in Hong Kong’s social services field,” said Dr Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, a former Executive Council Convenor, and patron of the Playright Children’s Play Association which Mrs Marden helped to found in 1987. “She was never loud, complaining or critical. She was soft and mild but persistent. She talked to people and influenced them – which I think is sometimes even more powerful.”
Mrs Marden and her husband established the philanthropic Marden Foundation in 1973 to build three pre-vocational secondary schools in different districts of Hong Kong. They also supported initiatives for children with special education needs, among other causes.
Appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1973, Mrs Marden was awarded an MBE in 1991 and the Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2006. In 2007, she was made an Honorary University Fellow by The University of Hong Kong in recognition of her support for education and educational opportunities for children.