|By Jeff Commings, The Arizona Daily Star,
TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Jan. 11, 2007 - Shortly after Mary Maduram won the 2006 Employee of the Year award from the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, she returned to work in the laundry room at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa as if nothing special had happened.
True, it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment hearing her name announced at the Dec. 15 luncheon in Phoenix. But she was not going to let it change how she ironed uniforms or fluffed pillowcases, even as the staff greeted her upon her return with sparkling cider.
Her colleagues wanted to celebrate that fact that Maduram, 45, was the second person in the resort's history to be named the best employee among the 24 large hotels in Arizona.
"She doesn't consider herself a celebrity," said Mary Wieth, Maduram's supervisor. "She's just Mary."
But Maduram is far from ordinary. She immigrated to the United States from India with her parents and sister when she was 18, starting her education in junior high, earning a diploma from Catalina High Magnet School when she was 22 and taking classes at Pima Community College.
She was born with cerebral palsy, an affliction that often affects motor skills and speech, and at age 7 suffered major hearing loss after a fall on a rock. When asked what made it difficult to assimilate to American culture and schools when she arrived, she said: "I had to learn English and learn different things."
"She never considers that (cerebral palsy) as a disability," said Wieth, who wrote a letter nominating Maduram for the award. "She's never let it keep her from doing what she wants to do."
The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association has been honoring employees in the service industry for about 40 years. Winners are judged on their ability to go "above and beyond normal job responsibilities" and show "outstanding and unusual service to the property, guests and the community." William Arce was the first employee of the Westin La Paloma to win the award, earning the honor in 2003.
Maduram's accomplishment comes 19 years after she began working in the laundry department at the Westin, a job she got through the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf. She's never considered working anywhere else.
"The people are great," she said. "I love all of them."
Her affection shows daily. Even while working alone in a searing-hot room pressing shirts or gathering bins full of dirty clothes, her smile never wavers, and she always finds time to give a co-worker a hug.
And after a long tenure at the Westin, 3800 E. Sunrise Drive, Maduram is still open to learning new things, something Wieth said isn't a common trait of longtime employees.
"She's always got an open mind when someone is showing her something new," she said. "She looks forward to it."
Her work at the Westin is not all that gives her satisfaction. For three years, she's volunteered at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, working various jobs in the cafeteria.
She enjoys the interaction with the deaf and hard-of-hearing students and said she is always ready to fill in for a sick worker or do an extra-long shift.
That applies to her paying job as well.
"It keeps me out of trouble," she said with a laugh.
She's always got an open mind when someone is showing her something new. She looks forward to it.
Mary Maduram's supervisor
--Contact reporter Jeff Commings at 349-0063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson
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