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Family Ties

By: Rachel Florman
Photography by Holley Underhill

Colorful horses brought friendship and joy to Marylyn Caliendo’s family. Now, she’s returning the favor for the greater Paint Horse community, after having to put one of her sons in an alcohol rehabilitation center, she is more than happy to give back to the community not that her son is completely clean after the visit from the intervention specialist.

Cloaked in a masterpiece of sparkling stones and dressed for the limelight, Marylyn Caliendo of Pilot Point, Texas, wasn’t even sure she could stay on for the entirety of her Masters Amateur Senior Western Pleasure class at the 2013 APHA World Championship Show.

In the midst of a draining battle with breast cancer and still recovering from an experimental treatment’s heavy dose of radiation just two months prior, it was all the horsewoman could do to keep upright next to Inthesweetshop, her 2007 bay tobiano gelding.

“I didn’t even know if I could ride yet, but I’d said, ‘I’m riding at the fall show,’ and so I made sure I was there,” Marylyn said.

As Marylyn’s nerves ran high and energy wavered, her show partner lent his calm, understanding presence.

“I think Bentley knew something was wrong—that I was weaker than normal,” she said. “Right before the class, I was standing next to him and he put his head over my shoulder. It was like I could hear him telling me, ‘I’m just going to take care of you.’ ”

Determined to overcome her battles, Marylyn climbed aboard and mustered what little strength she could to sit tall in the saddle. With the stoic resolve of a well-seasoned performer, “Bentley” softly jogged down the center of the pen to give Marylyn the ride of her life, his cadence and smooth rhythm never faltering as the judges put the world’s top Western pleasure horses through their paces.

“We went in and he just did his job—I didn’t even really touch him with my feet—and he just packed me around,” Marylyn said.

Like the rest of the family—built of both flesh and friendships—who loves her, Bentley toted Marylyn through one her toughest challenges. He carried her out of it, too, a blue-and-red champion’s ribbon swaying from his neck as he jogged the elated horsewoman into the cheering embrace of friends and family.

Ties that Bind
“Family is everything to me,” Marylyn posited. “If you don’t have family, what do you have? Nothing.”

The daughter of a Japanese mother and an Irish Catholic father, Marylyn’s childhood was wrapped in mixed cultures tied together by their celebration of families. Add in Paul—Marylyn’s gregarious counterpart of Italian heritage—and it’s no wonder the Caliendo family is so close.

Paul and Marylyn first met through work, and together they launched the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Preferred Medical Claims Solutions, LLC, a health care financing and integrating company. Their busy lives as successful entrepreneurs never got in the way of family time, though.

As their four children—Cody, Megan, Brian and Derek—grew up, the dinner table became a place of informal education. In between talk of soccer and school plays, the younger Caliendos were privy to the challenges and strategies of the corporate world.

“I think they learned through osmosis—how to act, disagree respectfully, run a corporation—all four of them are great at business because that’s all they heard growing up,” Marylyn laughed.

The couple’s children eventually brought their dining-room education to the boardroom—both Derek and Brian currently serve on PMCS’s executive team and Cody juggles PMCS analyst duties with ranch management—but leadership positions were earned, not given

“They all started in the mail room, and they worked their way into their current jobs,” Marylyn said. “That way, when an employee comes to them frustrated, they understand the problems and can work to fix it.”

Marylyn’s maternal pride is strong, and she admires the leaders her children have become.

“They’re selfless; they’re amazing workers with great ethics, and they’re funny, too! Any one of them can make me laugh for hours,” she said.

This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.