« back to Press Releases

Press Release: Marlene T. Elias

Marlene T. Elias, Receptionist joined the Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks team on November 14, 1996. She had a desire to help those in need of consolation and comfort in their time of loss and grief. She was encouraged by her friend of ten years, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to bring her gifts of solicitude and music to those suffering the pain of the loss of a loved one. Marlene is a professional vocalist, recording artist, inspirational and motivational speaker, author, freelance writer, songwriter, pianist and organist.

Blessed with an exuberant spirit and talent, Marlene has had an exciting life. She was active in Little Theater, belonged to a band, “The Swing Sounds”, sung and appeared with numerous celebrities at benefits for needy causes. Such as working for St. Jude’s Hospital with Danny Thomas and his family, enlisting the aid of such stars as George Burns, Bob Hope, and the elite of Hollywood. She’s performed on stage with stars Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Orlando, Glenn Campbell, Tony Bennett, Debbie Reynolds to name a few. Recently she worked side by side with Martin Sheen at a benefit for a religious order of nuns, as he joined her in singing for the event. She and her daughter Annie Gabriel, film producer worked with Elliot Gould at a prayer service in Hollywood, encouraging actors to pray for the settlement of a strike of Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. Marlene has also done featured spots doing interviews and singing for KIHS TV in Hollywood. In 1984 she sang the National Anthem and God Bless America at the opening of the Celebrity Tennis Tournament for the Olympics.

In 1987, Marlene’s life was to be forever changed. She had the honor of going to India and meeting the world-renowned Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Marlene accompanied her brother, Msgic John Esseff, who was to give a spiritual retreat to Mother and her nuns. This visit began a friendship which lasted until the death in 1997 of this saintly woman. Upon her return from India, Marlene was so inspired by Mother Teresa, she wrote five albums of music, one an anthem for the homeless. In 1988 she met with Mother Teresa in the Bronx, NY to audition her songs and obtain Mother’s approval to use her photo on two of the album covers.

Marlene worked with Mother Teresa, joining her at various convents and hospitals around the world. So inspired by this nun’s work with the poor, Marlene put together a slide presentation of photos taken during her travels with Mother, along with the music she composed, and took the show on the road. To date, she’s given over 800 presentations, sharing the life and message of Mother Teresa, motivating people to love, care and share. The proceeds from her albums have gone to the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa. Marlene has just released 6 CD’s of her music, and will continue to send much needed help to the sister to feed the poor.

On September 5, 1997, Marlene was saddened to hear of the death of her mentor and friend. The Sisters remembered the promise Marlene made to sing two songs, which she wrote, at Mother Teresa’s funeral. Marlene told of her plight to her manager, Larry Michael that morning and he gave her his blessing. With a little help from her friends, Marlene was able to make the trip to India to keep her promise. She sang at Mother Teresa’s funeral on September 13, 1997.

Two years ago on August 19th, Marlene’s beloved husband, Tony passed away and was buried at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks. He loved Mother Teresa and she loved and prayed for Tony every day. Marlene is sure she was there to great him in heaven.

This October the beatification of Mother Teresa took place in Rome. By the request of Sister Nimala and Sister Fatima Marlene sang at a private Mass offered by the Pope for her nuns.

One lesson that Marlene has learned from Mother Teresa is that we do not need to go to foreign lands to work at making a difference in people’s lives. In our own homes, in our workplaces, we can touch lives, making it a better world. Mother Teresa was pleased that Marlene was working at Valley Oaks. “You have helped me all these years, now help those in need at your work; those who grieve and are looking for comfort. Give them your love and your joy. And listen – yes listen, let their hearts speak to you.”