HADLEY – Pennie H. Marcus, 61, passed away Tuesday, July 29, 2014, from metastatic melanoma.
Pennie was an educator in the full sense of the word. She taught and advised students in adult basic education, GED and college programs throughout her long career and was also a learning and disabilities specialist. Hers was an adventurous and curious mind. She explored history, nature, poetry, art and social issues, sharing her love of learning with students and friends.
Pennie was passionate about making education accessible to everyone including women, people from diverse backgrounds, low-income learners, and those challenged by physical, mental health or learning disabilities. She often included readings about the Civil Rights movement in her classes, and recognized the activist roots of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that helped shape her own career.
Pennie earned her bachelor's degree and masters of education in psychology of reading at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she grew up. She taught at Temple, LaSalle University, and Philadelphia Community College. She also coordinated an educational program for hundreds of adult students in a community-based ABE/GED program at the Lutheran Settlement House Women's Program, and volunteered in the founding years of the Mount Airy Learning Tree. Moving to Northampton in 1988 she taught at Holyoke, Greenfield and Berkshire community colleges.
In Chicago, Pennie was a learning assistance counselor at Loyola University before going on to establish and manage the school's Services for Students with Disabilities. Returning to the Northampton area in 2000, she worked in the Office for Students with Disabilities/ Deaf Services at Holyoke Community College for a dozen years until retiring in 2012. She then volunteered with The Literacy Project.
Pennie's commitment to education went beyond teaching and advising students. She was also a dedicated union member of the Massachusetts Community College Council. Pennie was often the "go-to" person among professional staff at Holyoke Community College (HCC), regarding their union rights and she encouraged people to get involved in union activities. In 2003 she spearheaded a union vote at HCC against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. She also represented HCC at the state level on the Board of Directors of MCCC. Pennie remained active as a retired member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, supporting the progressive EDU (Educators for a Democratic Union) caucus.
In addition to her education activism, Pennie marched for lesbian rights, helped organize the Amherst Fair Housing Now! coalition, and backed local efforts to promote fresh local food, food co-ops and food security.
Pennie was full of life. She was a natural athlete, loved to have fun, laugh, play games, sing songs, attend concerts, watch birds, go to the beach. An energetic vegetable gardener, Pennie was often happiest with her hands in dirt. She cooked wonderful soups, stews, and ratatouille's from her homegrown food and generously shared the fruits of her garden and garden knowledge with others.
Pennie is survived by her beloved wife of 32 years, Deborah Levenson. They were married in May 2004 when it became legal in Massachusetts. She is survived, too, by her dear brother Arthur Marcus of Miami Beach, Florida, and several cousins including Richard and Phil Pless of Ashfield, and Phil's wife Linda Taylor, Susan Berman of Massapequa, New York, and Annette and Ed Schleyer of Lake Worth, Florida. Pennie also leaves behind many close and loving friends in Philadelphia, and Massachusetts, and others, including colleagues and students, whose lives she touched.
A memorial service to celebrate Pennie's life will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. at the Friends Meetinghouse in Northampton, 43 Center Street.
Contributions in her honor may be sent to The Literacy Project, 15 Bank Row, Greenfield, MA 01301.
Obituary and memorial register at www.douglassfuneral.com.
To sign a Guest Book, express condolences, share memories and read other obituaries, go to www.gazettenet.com/obituaries.
Douglass Funeral Home
87 North Pleasant Street Amherst, MA 01002
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Aug. 12, 2014