As the two-month anniversary of the murder of Marlene Colon approaches, her two sons and many friends are focused on celebrating the 73 years she lived. They are sharing memories and concentrating on the warmth and energy she shared with them and the wider Jewish community. And, each in their own way, is trying to deal with her brutal murder.
It was on April 5, in her own Sandy Springs home, that Colon was allegedly killed by a woman who was renting a room in that home. The suspect, Chelci Chisholm, was arrested by Sandy Springs police and is being held in the Fulton County Jail. She has been charged with murder, aggravated assault with intent to murder and willful obstruction of law enforcement officers.
The Israeli national was denied bond and assigned a public defender, Elizabeth L. Markowitz, who has a history of defending suspects in high-profile cases, such as the homeless man accused of starting a fire that contributed to the collapse of part of Interstate 85 in Atlanta in 2017.
Efforts to reach Markowitz for comment were unsuccessful.
But it is clearly not Colon’s murder that her family and friends want to talk about. One son, Loren, helped organize a special tribute to his mother at a recent Braves game. A scoreboard message in left field read: In Memory of Marlene Colon, Taken Away From Us Too Soon. Her other son, Jonathan, plans a “celebration of life” Zumba dance class near the pool in Spalding Lake subdivision, where she lived, at 9:30 a.m. June 5, to which the public is invited. Jonathan is publicizing the event through his mother’s Facebook page.
“We will use Mom’s music [set list] from her iPod,” Jonathan said. “I had fond memories of living in the neighborhood. They are not so fond now, but I’m trying to flip the switch.”
Marlene’s Zumba classes were particularly significant to Jonathan. “I met my wife through one of Mom’s classes,” he said.
The two brothers are trying to make new memories for themselves and Loren’s two children, who were very close to their grandmother. They are also eager to share the vivid recollections of their experiences with their mother.
Loren sent to the AJT a family history that underscored how generations have been active in their Jewish communities, including Marlene’s brother Dennis, who had been director of Jewish community centers in Knoxville, Seattle and San Diego.
Loren also sent Marlene’s fitness resume, which enumerated her experience teaching water aerobics, aqua Zumba and yoga at the Marcus Jewish Community Center as well as other fitness classes at assisted living facilities and the Concourse Athletic Club. He noted that his mother also taught disabled children.
Both sons pointed out that their mother was trained by Richard Simmons, a famous fitness personality who was known for being colorful and rather spirited.
“My mother was a female version of Richard Simmons,” Loren said.
Her outgoing personality and civic involvement wasn’t limited to the Jewish community. As Jonathan recalled, his mother planned “all the IBM corporate events during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.”
According to her childhood friend Carol Salus, it was Marlene’s thoughtfulness that also made her stand out. “I remember going to Atlanta and I took the train. She had a soda and a sandwich for me when she picked me up,” said Salus, who attended elementary school and junior high with Marlene. “She was considerate, vivacious, caring and she had a good sense of humor. She could laugh at herself,” said Salus, trying to paint a portrait of her late friend.
Repeatedly, relatives note how important Marlene’s grandchildren, Matthew and Julianne, were to her. “They were the apple of her eye,” said their father Loren. “She came to my house a lot and did things with my children once or twice a week.” Her loss is especially hard on 10-year-old Julianne. “A piece of my daughter died with my Mom. She doesn’t do her art anymore. She told me that Nana won’t be at her bat mitzvah, her high school graduation or her wedding. My daughter is a miniature Marlene. They were both the loudest in the room. She’s very similar to my Mom, even the way she carries herself.”
In addition to the Braves game tribute and the Zumba class in their mother’s memory, the two sons are considering other ways to remember her, including at Ohio State where she attended college. “This is a very difficult time we’re going through,” Jonathan said.