Marilyn Rose (née Black) of Guelph, Ontario, passed away peacefully on April 12, 2019, at the age of 89 with Hugh, her best friend and devoted husband of more than 63 years at her side.
Born on December 15, 1929, Marilyn was the daughter of Mary Alice Fussell and Dr. Noble Black, and grew up on the Kingsway, which was at the time a new residential neighbourhood in Toronto. Following graduation from the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Education she taught English and physical education in Toronto at Parkdale Collegiate Institute.
Marilyn met Hugh more than 70 years ago in 1948 when they were both members of a group of university students that regularly met to discuss the issues gripping the world and how each of them might respond to the challenges. From early on Marilyn and Hugh knew that they were kindred spirits but there were a number of twists and turns in their courtship that lasted seven years before they married on October 6, 1955. Marilyn often spoke of those years with Hugh before her marriage as something that challenged her to make a choice between duty and convention on the one hand and love on the other – and she chose love.
Marilyn was a fiercely independent woman who was also devoted to service to others. And it was the creative tension between those two aspects of her spirit that shaped her life and the lives of the people she loved. Although she was idealistic, Marilyn also brought a fine critical intellect and healthy realism that provided a firm foundation for her marriage to Hugh and their life’s work together.
In the early years that work centered on the United Church of Canada, and both she and Hugh were designated as missionaries in the late 1950s.
In 1957 with her first child, Stephen, just three months old, they left the familiarity of hometown Toronto and moved to the small isolated village of Bella Coola on the northwest coast of British Columbia where Hugh served as a physician in the local United Church hospital. This was a radical and deeply unsettling move for a recently-married city girl with a young baby, but it was only one of many that Marilyn would make over the course of her adventurous life.
Robert, their second son, was born in 1959 in Bella Coola. Less than a year later the growing family pulled up roots again and moved half way around the world to serve as medical missionaries in South Korea. Weeks later a revolution led by students toppled the government. It was a frightening introduction to a country and people that Marilyn embraced with enthusiasm over the course of the following decade.
Marilyn and Hugh were in Vancouver on furlough in 1965 where their third child Catherine was born. And back once more in Korea, their fourth child, Una, joined the family in 1969.
In 1970 the family moved again, this time to Yellowknife in the NWT. Hugh was employed by the federal government as the Mackenzie Zone ophthalmologist, a zone that covered a million square miles. Marilyn worked as his office manager, a position that she thoroughly enjoyed because it allowed her to use her gifts of discipline and organization outside of her role as wife and mother. In 1978 they moved to Stratford, Ontario, where Hugh was in private practice and Marilyn again served as office manager.
In 1985 Marilyn and Hugh moved to Hazelton in northern BC to work in the United Church’s Wrinch Memorial Hospital, which they reported as a deeply satisfying and fitting end to a career of service that took them across the world and back again.
They retired to Clarksburg, Ontario in 1990. And because retiring to just one location isn’t enough, they moved one final time to Guelph in 1999. Retirement didn’t slow them down. They stayed actively involved in their communities and logged many thousands of miles in their Roadtrek on numerous trips across Canada with their dog Chipper as their constant companion.
Marilyn’s children joke that in most families the expectation is that kids grow up and move away from home; in our family the kids grew up and settled down and it is our parents who kept on the move. Marilyn often said that one of the most important things in life is a great sense of humour. Her sense of humour, keen interest in other people, and joy in learning certainly gave her an uncommon resilience in her remarkable life.
Marilyn leaves behind her beloved husband, Hugh, and four children, Stephen (Sandra), Robert (Roy), Catherine (Steven), and Una; five grandchildren, Christopher (Lesley), David (Alexandra), Haydn, Jacob, and Daphne; her cousin, Shirley; and her nieces Linda and Leslie and their sons Adam and Kirk. She touched the lives of a wide circle of relatives, friends and acquaintances over the course of her long life and was in turn enriched by those relationships.
A memorial service for Marilyn will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, April 22, 2019, at Harcourt Memorial United Church at 87 Dean Avenue in Guelph. A reception will follow in the church gymnasium, 87 Dean Avenue, Guelph.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mission and Service, United Church Canada at www.united-church.ca/donate or a charity of your choice. Cards are available at Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home (519-821-5077) or donations and condolences can be made on line at www.gilbertmacintyreandson.com