Marietta resident known for her smile, resilience dies of COVID-19

Marcia Sasser, 75, of Marietta, died Aug. 3 at Northside Hospital after complications from COVID-19. Sasser is remembered by her loved ones for her resiliency and determination to make the most out of life. CONTRIBUTED
Marcia Sasser, 75, of Marietta, died Aug. 3 at Northside Hospital after complications from COVID-19. Sasser is remembered by her loved ones for her resiliency and determination to make the most out of life. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed photo

Credit: Contributed photo

Marcia Sasser’s friends will remember her as being resilient. Despite personal hardships and health challenges, Sasser always kept forging ahead: Traveling around the world, taking dance and exercise classes multiple times a week and caring for her beloved schnauzers.

Sasser, 75, lived her life to the fullest — armed with her signature smile that friends say seemed to be permanently on display. Then, in early August, Sasser died at Northside Hospital after contracting COVID-19.

“Nothing was stopping her,” her best friend, Joanne Scherma, said. “Until COVID.”

Sasser was born on Oct. 12, 1944 in Chicago. Her family moved to Miami when she was young, and Sasser spent her formative years in south Florida before coming north to Atlanta in the late 1970s.

ExploreRead and sign the online guestbook for Marcia Sasser

Throughout her career as a legal secretary, Sasser made many friends along the way, including Scherma. Prior to the pandemic, the duo — who met at an Atlanta law firm more than three decades ago — were always up to something new. Together, they’d do the things that their husbands didn’t want to, like visiting Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium or seeing a live show, Scherma said.

“She was my travel buddy and she wanted to keep traveling as long as she could,” Scherma, of Alpharetta, recalls of her late friend. “Not only travel, but we would go to all the theaters, plays, productions, concerts.”

Marcia Sasser and her best friend, Joanne Scherma. Sasser died on Aug. 3 after contracting COVID-19. CONTRIBUTED
Marcia Sasser and her best friend, Joanne Scherma. Sasser died on Aug. 3 after contracting COVID-19. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Courtesy of Joanne Scherma

Credit: Courtesy of Joanne Scherma

The two spoke daily on the phone, and in July when Sasser said her lunch seemed to have no taste, Scherma encouraged her to get tested for COVID. Scherma had had the virus herself in the spring and recognized the symptoms in her friend.

But after testing positive, Sasser’s case seemed to be mild. Loss of taste and a headache were at first her only symptoms. But when things got worse, Scherma took Sasser to Northside, where she was admitted and later died.

ExploreCoronavirus: Remembering the Victims

In a post on Facebook on Aug. 3, Sasser’s sister, Gail Gold Jensen, wrote, “My big sister, Marcia Gold Sasser, peacefully passed away this morning from complications of COVID-19. She was an amazing fighter throughout all her medical challenges. No one is immune from this horrible virus. Please wear masks!”

Despite Sasser’s drive and determination, she also faced her fair share of hardships. Her husband of nearly 50 years, James, died in 2017. And for decades, Sasser dealt with rheumatoid arthritis, which limited her mobility.

Still, she was a devout regular at SilverSneakers classes in Marietta. And where Sasser went, friends were made.

The group who worked out together with their trainer, Tona Barnes, became more like family. Together, they dressed up for holidays and birthdays, got together for potlucks and sometimes went for lunch after class — always with Sasser front and center.

“She just did everything she could possibly do with what she had,” Barnes said. “She was always a bright light even in the dullest moments.”

Marcia Sasser, third from the right in the front row, was a regular attendee at SilverSneakers classes in Marietta. The group became more like family, she previously told the AJC. Here, they celebrate their trainer's 50th birthday with T-Shirts and balloons. In early August, Sasser died due to COVID-19. CONTRIBUTED
Marcia Sasser, third from the right in the front row, was a regular attendee at SilverSneakers classes in Marietta. The group became more like family, she previously told the AJC. Here, they celebrate their trainer's 50th birthday with T-Shirts and balloons. In early August, Sasser died due to COVID-19. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed photo

Credit: Contributed photo

When Sasser saw videos online of senior exercise groups that she didn’t think looked very lively, she decided to prove that people her age could have fun while exercising. She posted a video of their group on YouTube, which to date, has nearly 900,000 views.

Barnes said that was Sasser’s real gift: spreading joy by bringing people together. That’s what she did throughout the entirety of her life. And by posting videos of her community here in Georgia online, her impact has been global.

“Her talent was pulling people together and getting us all connected,” Barnes said. “She was definitely a big part of the glue that holds us all together.”

In addition to her love for travel and fitness, Sasser was an avid reader, a loyal friend and a dog lover — even appearing on Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisperer” television show in 2006. Her beloved schnauzer, Bee Bee, is now in the care of her sister.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the family will hold off on celebrating Sasser’s life until a later date, but have asked for donations in her honor to go to Our Pal’s Place pet adoption in Marietta or the Arthritis Foundation.

Director of photography Bryan Duggan gets ready to record Jim and Marcia Sasser for Cesar Millan's "The Dog Whisperer" show in 2006. When asked after the session if she thought Millan was rough on her pets, Marcia Sasser responded. "No, never. In fact, I thought the exact opposite. I was thrilled there was someone who could help us without being mean to our dogs."
Director of photography Bryan Duggan gets ready to record Jim and Marcia Sasser for Cesar Millan's "The Dog Whisperer" show in 2006. When asked after the session if she thought Millan was rough on her pets, Marcia Sasser responded. "No, never. In fact, I thought the exact opposite. I was thrilled there was someone who could help us without being mean to our dogs."

Credit: AJC file photo

Credit: AJC file photo