EAGLE HARBOR – Marilyn Margaret (Stephens) Marshall, passed away peacefully at home on May 28, 2013, at the age of 89.
Beloved mother of Rex Marshall, Cynthia Poirot (Gregg), Stephen Marshall (Alicia), Elizabeth Larke, Sue Wierzbicki (Don), Paul Marshall, Sally Suico, Amy Marshall, Nancy Marshall, Phyllis Dykstra (Kyle), Marjorie Marshall and Kerry LaPointe (Rom). Beloved grandmother of 29 grandchildren; great grandmother of ten and great great grandmother of one.
Preceded in death by her parents, Samuel and Marjorie, Stephens; her sister Marjorie and her former husband of 32 years, Rex E. Marshall.
Born and raised in Detroit, Marilyn graduated from Redford High School. She married Rex, her high school sweetheart, and together they had 12 children over a span of 25 years.
They lived in the city of Detroit where Marilyn began what would ultimately become decades of community, social, and political activism. As a member of the Detroit Public School PTA, she was instrumental in establishing the “Helping Hands” program which identified safe houses for school children who might encounter danger on their way to and from school. She continued her commitment to the well-being of children by working with the Detroit newspapers on “A Child is Waiting” series that publicized the stories of children waiting to be adopted.
A member of Redford Presbyterian Church, she taught Sunday School on the weekends. Her political activism included volunteering for dozens of candidates running for offices on the local, state, and federal levels. One of the highlights of her years in the city was participating in the “march on Woodward” with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 along with several of her young children.
In 1969, Marilyn and the nine children still living at home moved to Keweenaw County at the tip of the Upper Peninsula, while Rex remained at the family business in Detroit and commuted nearly 600 miles home on the weekends.
After being elected to her first political position as the Eagle Harbor Township Clerk, Marilyn became increasingly active in the Michigan Democratic Party. She helped form what later became the Michigan Women’s Democratic Caucus, served as a delegate at two national Democratic conventions and finally ran for State Senator with seven children still at home.
At 50, with six children still at home, Marilyn enrolled in college, driving 80 miles round trip to attend classes at Michigan Technological University. Two years later, the family moved to Marquette, where Marilyn graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northern Michigan University.
Her professional life exemplified her commitment to equal rights for all; women, children, minorities, and workers. Her first job was at Marquette-Alger Intermediate School District where she served for several years as the head of the Displaced Homemakers Program, providing training, education, and support to women in need. Next she served as the Workplace Development Coordinator for the Upper Peninsula Power Company, providing education and training to improve the relations between labor and management. She finished her work life as the court appointed Director of Vocational Training at Scott Correctional Institution, a position responsible to provide job training for female inmates. Marilyn was 62 when she began this position and embraced the responsibility with incredible energy. Her accomplishments included starting a Master Gardener program and forming a visitation program staffed by volunteers where the children of the inmates were allowed to visit with their mothers.
She retired from professional life in 1993 but continued to work for the next 20 years for the causes that were important to her.
After moving back to her home in Eagle Harbor, Marilyn became actively involved in the land use planning challenges facing Keweenaw County.
An avid and accomplished gardener, Marilyn’s yard was admired by residents and visitors alike and when the snow covered the flowers, Marilyn’s elaborate Christmas displays brought much happiness to the community.
Marilyn gave freely of her time, energy, and money to many organizations over her lifetime. She actively supported the Democratic Party, the ASPCA, the Michigan Humane Society and various veteran organizations. Her last years were spent back in the Detroit community living close to a number of her children and grandchildren.
Marilyn’s final charitable mission was much like her first, and involved helping children in the city of Detroit by championing a Coats for Kids Program for Samuel Gompers School. She wasn’t content to simply gather used coats to donate, instead she spent countless hours searching for bargains on new coats, cajoling others to donate to the cause, and then carefully matching the new coats with scarves and hats so the children would be both warm and happy.
Marilyn was truly an inspiration to those whose lives she touched and she will be greatly missed by her friends and family alike.
Memorial donations can be made to the Michigan Humane Society.
A memorial luncheon will be held in the Eagle Harbor Community Center on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, from 12 to 3 p.m.