Marianne Bly, Dollar Tree worker who was always there for her customers, dead at 64

‘She did her best, taking care of her people at the store,’ one of her daughters said. She also volunteered at Gallistel Language Academy and was active on Local School Councils.

SHARE Marianne Bly, Dollar Tree worker who was always there for her customers, dead at 64
Marianne Bly.

Marianne Bly.


The first person to arrive at Marianne Bly’s wake was a customer from the Dollar Tree store she managed.

“She knew everyone by name,” said her daughter Vanessa. “She knew what they shopped for, and she would call them to tell them the store got what they were looking for.”

A customer who was blind made sure to come in on the days she worked.

“She would have a list of things she needed, and Marianne would walk her around the store and fill her cart,” said Socorro Elizalde, freight manager at the Dollar Tree at 3620 E. 118th St. 

One man would ask Mrs. Bly to hold items for him until payday.

“On Friday, he would come in and buy what she put aside for him,” Elizalde said.

“Anybody with disabilities, or if they were old and having trouble, she’d say, ‘What do you need?’ ” said her son Matthew. “People who couldn’t walk to the end of the store, she’d put it in the front so they wouldn’t have to walk as far.’’

Mrs. Bly, a lifelong East Side resident, died in May of a heart attack. She was 64.

As the coronavirus spread, she didn’t stop coming in to work.

“I’m an essential worker; I’m coming to work everyday,” her daughter said was how she viewed things. “She did her best, taking care of her people at the store.”

Vanessa Bly said her mother “had the Fourth [police] District on speed dial” to let officers there know when the store had sanitizer, wipes and disinfectant sprays.

Her daughter Kristyne had a baby, named Esteban, during the pandemic. Though she dropped off toys and balloons and homemade cookies and cupcakes, Mrs. Bly never got to hold her new grandson.

“She would see my kids through the door and try to spoil them,” Kristyne Bly said. “I just always thought this pandemic will be over, and she’ll be able to hold him.”

Marianne Bly.

Marianne Bly.

Vanessa Bly

Growing up in a big family — her mother Barbara was one of 12 kids — everyone would hang out for weekend picnics with sack races and tug-of-war at Thornton-Lansing Road Nature Preserve and Veterans Memorial Park in South Holland. Her father Kenneth was a pipefitter for ComEd.

She met her future husband Kirk while she was a student at Washington High School. They got married in 1984 and lived at 106th Street and Avenue G. He worked in building maintenance at the Orrington Hotel in Evanston.

When he died in 1994, their children were just 2 to 8 years old.

Mrs. Bly worked for about 13 years at the Dollar Tree. Before that, she worked at Target stores in Calumet City and in the South Loop.

She was a member of the local school councils at Washington High School and Gallistel Language Academy. She also was a founding member of the South Side United Local School Council Federation, which advocated for access to tutors, equitable funding and improved communication between schools and parents, according to LSC trainer Valencia Rias-Winstead, formerly of the group Designs for Change.

She volunteered at Gallistel Language Academy, where her kids went to school.

“When it was hot and we had no air conditioners, she would give fans,” Vanessa Bly said. “When it was Christmas and the kids had a little store, she would call and say, ‘Hey, we have wrapping paper and things on sale.’ ”

Her childrens’ friends called her mom.

“She was on the field trips, she was at the school, she was telling you to stop doing something if you were acting crazy,” Vanessa Bly said.

One of her son’s favorite memories is playing catch with her.

“Not having a dad, she was our dad,” he said. “We would go to a park and just play. It was awesome.”

She looked forward to her annual vacation, which included trips to New Orleans and the Grand Canyon.

“For two weeks out of the year, we would try to do something for her that was not being stressed,” Vanessa Bly said. 

“She was the most hardworking woman I have ever seen,” Elizalde said.

Mrs. Bly also regularly attended protests against General Iron’s plans for a car-shredding plant on the Southeast Side, her family said.

In addition to her three children, Mrs. Bly is survived by her sisters Jo Ann Minson and Margaret Gillette, brothers Kenneth and William and three grandchildren. Services have been held.

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