Maura Marden touched many lives in her 53 years on earth. She made an impact in many ways because of who she was, her ability to put a positive face on adversity, her willingness to meet it head on, and the way she cared for others and gave of herself. Because of her virtues, a void that is impossible to fill has hovered over Westport since she passed away Sept. 27 after a four-year battle with cancer.

"I think she was a genuinely nice person with a great sense of humor," Westport Weston Family Y Water Rats Senior Head Coach Ellen Johnston said. "She was able to laugh about things and she was accepting of others for who they were."

Marden was always a swimmer and a fitness buff as she ran in marathons when she was younger. She had a strong affinity for the water, so it was only natural that her three sons, David Platow Jr., Danny Platow and Bart Platow, would share her passion for swimming, starting with the Water Rats, Fairfield Prep and Pacific University.

Because of her love for the pool, Marden dedicated herself to the Water Rats and Westport swimming in general. Five years before David qualified for the YMCA National championships, Marden helped Johnson as a volunteer chaperone at the national meet.

"Maura was our mom away from home," Johnston said. "She was there for the swimmers and made sure they were well-fed." Marden helped Fairfield Prep and the Y with fund-raising but her support wasn't limited to the teams her sons were on. The Staples girls swimming team is grateful for the support she gave its members and many past and present swimmers were at her wake and funeral last weekend. Some came from out-of-state.

"She's always been a huge support system for me and a lot of people on our swimming team," Lady Wreckers senior captain Molly Loftus said. "She has shown her appreciation and motivated us to work harder and achieve our everyday goals." Loftus and her sister Emma learned how to swim from Marden, who was also the president of the Water Rats for three years.

"Maura was the lifeblood of the Y," said Bill Loftus, Molly's father. "She was involved with everything and was one of the key drivers of the swimming team for a long time."

Swimming and athletics aren't the only thing she's involved in. Linda Johnston (no relation to Ellen) first met her more than 20 years ago when they belonged to the Westport Young Women's League. Five years ago, Johnston and Marden became great friends when they worked out together at Fitness Edge.

"Maura kept a positive stride and showed no fear," Linda Johnston said. "Maura was an inspiration, not just for me, but to anyone. She touched so many peoples lives and was all about family." Despite being afflicted with cancer, she never felt sorry for herself and continued her normal routine as if she was 100 percent healthy.

"For two years she never, ever complained," said her husband, Bill Marden. "Every morning she was up, she went to the gym, she lived her actual life and didn't let cancer get in the way. Every night she would make dinner." Being the person she is, Marden turned her illness into a positive. She worked tirelessly in finding a cure for the disease and joined her sons on a relay team in Swim Across the Sound this summer despite being bed-ridden the day before the event.

One day before she was admitted to the intensive care unit, Marden told Linda Johnston that her greatest accomplishment was getting in the water in Swim Across the Sound.

"Maura was very determined," Linda Johnston said. "She never quit, and was always positive and hopeful." In addition to Swim Across the Sound, she helped out Al's Angels and was supposed to work out at Edge Fitness Club in Norwalk, which hosted a 24 Hours of Hope Fitness Fundraiser during the weekend of her wake and funeral to raise money for children with cancer and rare blood diseases.

Before entering ICU, she also told Johnston about plans to go to California to visit her sons in the foreseeable future.

In my 10-plus years as editor of these pages, Maura Marden became one of my favorite parents of all time because she was intelligent, a giver, cared for the greater good and, most important, was loyal and possessed unparalleled integrity. I miss her dearly because of who she was and what an incredible person she was.

Because she touched so many lives, her wake and funeral were packed and those who attended weren't only members of the swimming community. People with family members involved in football, basketball, soccer, track, baseball and lacrosse came to pay their respects because she touched their lives as well.

"Maura never talked about herself, was a role model and a quality person," Linda Johnston said. "Too bad her life was shortened, but she taught us a great lesson on how to live our lives. She's very motivational and that's how she turned out as a parent. She turned out three quality young men."

Bill Loftus said, "Her legacy is her personality. Maura knows how to light up a room and was one of the real people in Westport. She was comfortable in her own skin and what you see is what you got with Maura. When I was going through things, Maura was always there to help me out. Her friends and family meant everything to her. Her spirit lives on and she was a unique lady. You can take a lesson on how to live your life the way Maura lived her life. She was one of the most unique people I knew and I'll miss her terribly. I was blessed to know her."

Added Ellen Johnston, "I miss her tremendously. She always smiled and waved to you and was friendly. She was always a very thoughtful and considerate person."

Although Maura Marden is now in heaven, her presence will be felt on earth by those who she touched.

"I miss her a lot and I think about her all the time," Molly Loftus said. "She'll always be with us and was such an inspiration to everyone. She'll always be in the back of my mind and help me become a better person."