I made a mental list of people — including my friend Marilyn Moyer — to call over the holidays this year.
I worked with Marilyn at the Livingston County Press for a decade before she retired in 2000. During that time, we became good friends, and after she retired we saw each other every so often for breakfast or lunch, and I’d often run into her with her dear friend Barb Saum at Uptown Coffeehouse. We made a date to meet for breakfast in early 2020, but the pandemic hit and we cancelled, promising to reschedule as soon as possible.
I am so, so sad that we won’t get the chance to reschedule our date.
Marilyn died of cancer earlier this week at the age of 84. If you were lucky enough to know Marilyn, you realize that the world has lost one of its most caring, compassionate stars, as well as one of its fiercest feminists.
Though she worked at the Livingston County Press building in downtown Howell for 25 years, Marilyn’s newspaper career actually started much, much earlier.
Born and raised in Grosse Pointe Woods, Marilyn, when just a young girl, began delivering editions of the small community newspaper her father started. I imagine the paper was probably a lot like the Livingston County Press and Brighton Argus of that same era, chock full of community information.
At the age of 16, while a student at what one day would become Grosse Pointe North High School, Marilyn got a promotion of sorts at the paper when she began covering the social beat, reporting on things like neighborhood goings-on, vacations and visitors.
After graduating from high school, Marilyn attended Western Michigan University, where she met her ex-husband, whose parents had a cottage on Lake Chemung.
“My dad grew up coming to Howell in the summer,” said Marilyn’s daughter, Kris Moyer. “My brother and I did, too. We’d drive from our house in Livonia and stay at the cottage on Lake Chemung. It was so much fun.”
Her parents set a goal of moving farther out from Livonia, and they built a house on Coon Lake in the ‘70s. Marilyn started working at the paper in 1975, and I met her when I started there in 1990.
It was when I became the editor of The Livingston County Press in 1993 that we got to know each other really well. I was the only female editor in the corporation at the time, and Marilyn ran the composition department, which had the most employees, if my memory serves me correctly. We quickly became great allies after coming to the conclusion that our pay wasn’t quite on par with what the men in the company were making, and we traded advice and served as sounding boards for each other, often over lunch.
We both eventually got pay bumps, and along the way we became good friends.
It was then that I learned Marilyn and I shared a lot of political views, and that while she had such a zen, calm and quiet way about her, she was one of the fiercest feminists I’d ever met.
I mentioned that to her daughter when we talked about her mom; she agreed.
“She was very much ahead of her time in a lot of ways,” Kris said. “From when I was little, she’d talk about the importance of the Supreme Court and how its decisions affected our daily lives.”
Among those decisions was Roe v. Wade in 1973. And while it’s hard to imagine it today, like my own mom, Marilyn was an adult at a time when married women couldn’t get credit cards in their own names, and single women struggled to get credit on their own. All that changed a year after Roe, when future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg argued that dissimilar treatment of men and women “on the basis of sex” was unconstitutional, and she won.
Marilyn didn’t serve on any community boards or in any official volunteer capacity (which “wasn’t her style,” Kris said); instead, she was a quiet helper, going above and beyond to provide assistance to those in need. I know there are lots of people who benefited from Marilyn’s generosity and concern.
And Marilyn had such a passion for children.
Babies — and puppies — were welcomed warmly for visits in her department. While visits like that may have annoyed a different kind of manager, it was part of the culture Marilyn fostered, and it says so much about the person she was. I still remember fondly bringing in my newborn son, and how he was gently held and then passed from one set of arms to another so anyone who wanted to could hold him for a bit. I remember, too, Marilyn attending my son’s high school graduation party 17 years later.
Her daughter, who retired from the Livingston County Health Department, once told Marilyn that there was a box behind the desk at the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Clinic containing items — including baby socks — to be given out to clients in need.
“I told her that sometimes babies came in to the clinic without socks in the winter,” Kris said.
From that moment on, Marilyn helped; she was always on the lookout for baby socks when she was shopping, and she’d buy them, pop into the WIC Clinic, and drop them into the box.
While she had a passion for all children, her two favorite ones, hands-down, were her grandchildren, Alex and Audrey, whom she helped raise after their mother died and their father — her son, Kurt, who died in 2015 — had a stroke and couldn’t care for them. She was so very proud of those two, and she loved them so very, very much.
Marilyn was also a strong supporter of LACASA, the nonprofit organization in Livingston County that provides help and hope for victims of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
There will be a visitation and service for Marilyn from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, with a service starting at 4 p.m. at the MacDonald’s Chapel of the Watkins Brothers Funeral Homes on Michigan Avenue in downtown Howell. You can get more information about the service, and read Marilyn’s obituary by clicking here.