Marie Louise Wilson

Marie Louise Wilson

With Marie's death on January 3, Seattle lost a passionate voice for social justice. She was born in Seattle on July 8, 1921, to Arthur and Eleanor Sirjord, a carpenter and a teacher. Together with her brother, Art, the family lived through tough Depression times. Marie often recalled going to the Pike Place Market on Saturdays when farmers discounted their produce at the end of the week. Decades later, she would join the fight to save the Market.

She married Howard, the love of her life, in 1942 and moved with him to Oklahoma, where he entered Marine Corps training before serving in Okinawa. Marie returned to Seattle to work as the private secretary for Gene Von Herberg, helping the famed psychic produce an advice column for the Seattle Star. After Gene's death, Marie and Howard became guardians for the five Von Herberg children until 1951, when they bought a house above Lake Washington in Rainier Beach and grew a family of their own. The death of their first child, shortly after birth, did not deter them-for which Howard, Karen and Bryan are forever grateful.

Marie's love of family was boundless, embracing her children's spouses and her grandsons Sean, Ryan and Reed. Family and friends know Marie for the many ways she made her love tangible-making a home that welcomed an entire neighborhood of children and animals. She had an artist's eye for beauty, a gardener's love of green growing things, and a writer's way with words. With her unerring sense of style, she made the mundane magic and had an amazing knack for finding second-hand treasures. At Christmas, all looked forward to her newspaper-wrapped "thrifties."

As her children left the nest, she moved beyond the PTA to become an activist and vocal advocate for South Seattle. She served as president of South East Seattle Community Organization (SESCO), Rainier Beach Community Club, and Rainier Beach Women's Club and was an active member of the Light Brigade and Radical Women. She was an elected Precinct Committeeperson for the Democratic party. She was an eloquent voice for what she believed in-often tapping into the unspoken sentiment in the room and paving the way for others to speak their minds and act on their convictions. She and Howard helped save two Seattle treasures, Franklin High School and Kubota Garden. She believed in the power of political theatre, once presenting Charles Royer with a chicken as commentary on his mayoral performance. Her signature hats earned her the moniker of "the Bella Abzug of Seattle".

Losing Marie to Alzheimer's over the last 12 years has been a painful long good-bye, and we're deeply grateful to Liliana Anghel and team at Excellent Adult Family Home for the love and respect with which they cared for her. They demonstrated the dignity and fellow feeling that was central to the way Marie lived her life. Sign Marie's on-line Guest Book:

Published in The Seattle Times on Jan. 12, 2013