The first thing you have to know is
that I HATE shopping - for food, presents, and above all, clothes.
Still, I had to have a nice dress for my daughter's wedding and so
did my pal Marilyn for hers. We left Bloomington early one morning
for Indy and its wonders. I knew it would be a down day but the
gossip was pleasant and I tried to relax as my friend drove, well,
should we say aggressively. We covered every store in the upscale
mall and found nothing, which didn't surprise me. What did, though,
was how much fun we were having. In fact, by the end of our
fruitless search, we were helpless with laughter. Everything I
tried on was too big for me and the perfect color for Marilyn.
Everything she tried on was too small for her and the perfect color
for me. Everything we both tried on made us look too old, too fat,
too pale, too dowdy, too.....well, you get the picture. And each
time we sloughed off one costume to try on another Marilyn's
wonderful robust laugh rang through the store. By the end of the
shopping day, a day to live in intimacy, Marilyn's laughter had
transformed the black cloud over my head to sunshine. In fact, it
was her laugh that first captured my love and it is her laugh,
through thick and thin, mostly thick, that makes her so much fun to
be with. I simply couldn't do without her. Happy birthday! - -
May Del Rio
Because of Marilyn,
I was able to travel to Florence and Venice. Imagine? Without her
I'd never have seen amazing things (of course, also Paris and London
... but that's another story for another time). We shared the same
birthday, so we decided to take trips to places I wanted to see ...
short trips for me, and she usually stayed on for a longer period.
On our way to Florence, from Venice, we were driving along,
and chatting, looking at magnificent countryside when all of a
sudden, out of the blue, we had a car accident. A car ran into us,
and Marilyn was knocked out. It was the only time in my life I
would have dared slap her with all the force I could manage. I kept
yelling her name until she finally woke up. What a relief,
although, sad to say, she only managed a cliched, "Where am I?" But
I forgave her.
We were suddenly
surrounded by glorious looking Italian young men (we will never be
too old not to appreciate such beauty). So many cars stopped that I
stopped counting. Someone immediately called an ambulance and they
argued about whether to take Marilyn out of the car or not, in that
wonderful language. Even though I could not understand it, its
music was lovely to my ear. Soon an ambulance came, and I went into
it with Marilyn. The car was totaled and we did abandon the poor
thing without much thought.
We got to the hospital and without a second of waiting, they
took Marilyn into the emergency room. They examined her, plus they
took what to me seemed like a thousand Xrays of her lovely head (not
a hair out of place, I swear) and we waited for the results.
The physical examination was thorough and when the Xrays were
developed, they were negative, no broken bones, no concussion,
nothing. When Marilyn felt well enough to leave (the policemen that
interviewed her for the record, by the way, were stunning too) she
started to make out a check to the facility. The doctor who came
over to her, put his hand gently on her arm and explained there was
no charge. Now that was a lesson in health care policy we would not
soon forget. When I next looked up, the doctor was shamelessly
flirting with her!
And she did nothing
to stop him ... what a charmer she turned out to be. I felt in the
way, so off I went to read a magazine (in Italian?). We finally
departed and he said goodbye to her with eyes filled with Italian
The police took us to the car rental place, Marilyn explained the
car was totaled, the rental agent said, "Donna worry!" and gave
us another car. We were amazed as we continued on to Florence,
the last lap of our wonderful trip.
Julie Newton Cucchi
Marilyn Bowie saved my life.
While I admit to a genetic
predisposition (mother’s side) to exaggerate for effect, I’m not
overstating the truth when I say that if it hadn’t been for Marilyn
Bowie I might not have lived past the age of 18.
This is the first time I’ve
mentioned this event to anyone. Marilyn and I have never discussed
it. I can’t think of a better way to mark her 80th
birthday than to finally give credit where it’s due.
Here’s what happened.
During the summer of 1975, the
summer I graduated from high school, I became involved with a man
who lived in Indianapolis. Once an accomplished jazz musician, he
had fallen on hard times. Actually, he fell over hard times. In
fact, he fell over everything. He was a falling-down, periodically
angry drunk whose driver’s license had been permanently revoked
after 5 arrests for DWI violations. In short, he was irresistible.
Since he spent his days in a
stupor and played his gigs at night the only time I could see him
was between the hours of midnight and 5 AM while he washed his
dinner of fried chicken down with a pint of scotch and milk (Did I
mention he also had a life-threatening, bleeding ulcer?)
Every Saturday night that
summer, after my parents were asleep, I noiselessly opened the
garage door, slipped the family car into neutral and silently
coasted out the driveway. I then sped, like a cheetah on crack, 60
miles to Indianapolis, spent a few hours with my love and sped 60
miles home before dawn, easing the car back into the garage and
tiptoeing up to my bedroom for an hour of sleep. It was a foolproof
plan. Until, well, it wasn’t.
As this relationship blossomed I
would often drive to Indianapolis for prearranged meetings only to
sit in the car for two hours and then drive home. (Did I mention he
had another girlfriend at the time?)
By August this was happening
more frequently and so I began to wait only 45 minutes before
heading home. (What am I, a chump?) One such night found me speeding
south on Highway 37 towards Bloomington, frustrated, angry, hurt and
sleep deprived. As the road was mind-numbingly straight and nearly
empty at this hour, I took my wise boyfriend’s advice and placed a
heavy brick on the gas pedal thereby releasing my foot from the
annoying strain of pressing down continuously. (Adding milk to
scotch was not the only example of his ingenuity and
resourcefulness.) I thus traveled effortlessly at 90 miles an hour
until I reached the outskirts of Bloomington.
This particular night I was
cruising down 37, listening to (weirdly, I remember this detail)
“I’m Not in Love”, by 10CC, when suddenly I heard an awful scraping
sound. The car lurched to the right and through the rear view mirror
I saw sparks flying. I reached down to remove the brick from the gas
and managed to guide the car as it hobbled, making a sickening
noise, to the side of the road. Surveying the damage I saw that the
back tire had exploded. All that was left was the metal rim and
shreds of burnt rubber.
Ok, so maybe I was stealing my
parent’s car in the middle of the night and maybe I was speeding 120
miles with a brick on the gas to see my alcoholic, two-timing,
reprobate boyfriend, but even I knew that a high school girl alone
with a flat tire on the side of the road at 1 AM wasn’t safe. This
was before cell phones, of course, and I was miles from the nearest
gas station. I had no money. I was terrified no one would drive by
and stop. I was terrified someone would drive by and stop.
Even if I lived to actually make it back home how would I ever
explain it to my parents? These were my thoughts as I saw a pair of
headlights approaching in the distance. The car slowed to a crawl to
survey the damage and then pulled over. or a few long seconds the
car simply idled there. My heart was exploding in my chest as I
prayed this was a good Samaritan and not an ax-wielding rapist.
Finally, the driver shut the
motor, stepped from the car and approached. I saw from the way she
walked that my savior was a woman, but my sigh of relief was choked
when I saw this wasn’t just any woman…. oh…no WAY… MRS. BOWIE?!!?
It must have been the utter
shock at finding myself face to face with the single raised eyebrow,
crooked half-grin and calm demeanor of my mother’s best friend,
here, on the side of the road, halfway between Indianapolis and
Bloomington, at 1AM, which permanently wiped the specific details of
the encounter from my mind. I do not remember how I got back to
Bloomington. I do not remember how the car was fixed or who fixed
it. Did Marilyn have a spare? Did she drive me to the nearest
service station? Did she pay?
I do know two things: Marilyn
asked me no questions and, as far as I know, she never told my
parents. Being a self-absorbed, “its-all-about-me” teenager I didn’t
even stop to wonder why Marilyn Bowie would be driving between
Indianapolis and Bloomington at this hour. Now that I am closer to
the age she was then than I am to 19 I see exactly why she was
She was there to save my life.
One day I might see one of my
daughter’s friends stranded on the side of the road at midnight. I’d
like to think that I would stop and help and ask no questions. But
one thing I ‘m sure of. I would never be able to keep it a secret.
My life with Marilyn began in
the early 80’s. Marilyn, then executive director of the Planned
Parenthood affiliate in Bloomington, was appointed to the first
Policyholders Council, which I staffed, and I was one of “them” – a
PPFA national staff member. Because Marilyn kept a wary eye on
anyone not “in the trenches,” ours was initially a cautious, if
After Marilyn joined the
national office and moved to New York, I finally got to know, like,
and finally love, the warm, fun-living – and sometimes demanding –
person she is. Our professional relationship turned into a personal
one as we began to travel together to various Planned Parenthood
meetings and retreats in the early 90’s. We began to request
adjoining rooms so we could spend more time together, and then even
began to shop together! (Why is it that I can shop with Marilyn and
not with my wife? Same goes with gossiping, an art which I may have
honed to a science under Marilyn’s careful tutelage.) Eventually we
became so tight that others noticed: at a regional meeting in San
Francisco a co-worker asked us if we were having an affair!!
Although I can’t imagine why Marilyn would waste her time on an old
man like me, it was nice to know that we were at least interesting
enough to be gossiped about.
Happy Birthday, Marilyn, and
best wishes for many more … from your erstwhile roommate, occasional
conspirator, and forever confidant and friend. With much love, Tim
Dorothy & Mel Semmel
Marilyn and I met via internet after
David introduced us on e-mail. After exchanging a few emails, we
finally met face to face last September, when Marilyn planned a stop
over in Santa Barbara, as part of her train trip from San Diego to
San Jose. Mel & I drove down to the local AMTRAK station to meet
her. No surprise when about an hour past the scheduled arrival
time, we learned that there had been an accident on the track about
50 miles south and that North bound passengers were being
transferred to a bus and would arrive in an hour. The Bus finally
stopped a the far end of the station and as we walked toward it, we
noticed a small group of people, hugging each other like family or
old friends, we instinctively knew that the woman in the middle of
the knot of well wishers was Marilyn. Of course we were right. In
the space of an hour or two, Marilyn had become fast friends with
about half the people on the bus. The next 24 hours we spent with
Marilyn were great fun. Her enthusiasm and zest for being and doing
is so contagious. It must be what made her such a great leader.
We fell in love with Jocelyn as soon
as we met her and are thrilled to have her as our daughter in law.
Marilyn as an in –law, is a welcome prospect for us. She is a
pleasure to be with, smart, intellectual, and feisty. David
however, passionate as he is about politics, will have to argue as
never before, as Marilyn is more than a match for him.
With much affection, Dorothy & Mel
Marilyn is one of my favorite people and one of
my favorite program staff persons. Here is what I mean by
that. As a fundraiser, I often have to rely on people who run
the programs for which I am raising money, for various things
such as staying on schedule with tasks promised to the funder;
preparing updated reports; spending the grant funds wisely; etc.
I was working at PPFA when we received a
huge grant from the Buffett Foundation to start up a clinic
defense project. Marilyn was put in charge of this project
shortly after she came to PPFA. Whenever I needed any
information, updates, expense reports, new budgets, etc., I
never had to worry that I would not receive it on time.
She was always so responsive. Believe it or not, that is
not always the case with folks whose programs are
grant-funded On top of that, she always made me laugh - she
has a great sense of humor..She has my admiration and
gratitude and I am so glad that we remain colleagues.
Barb and Ron
I acquired Marilyn as a friend
fairly late in life, though I had known her from afar as a revered
presence in "the other building" when I worked very part-time in
1979 doing graphic art at Planned Parenthood. She was a little
overwhelming to me--- I was just sprung from mommydom in my first
job "outside the home" (oh, yes, that's what we called it then!).
She reigned in the Big Building on College Avenue where the
grown-ups worked; I mostly stayed out of the way over in a little
office a couple of blocks away, with lots of interns and the
education department, wielding my magic markers and figuring out new
ways to deliver the PP message to the not-so-receptive Indiana
public. It was only many years later, when both of us were widowed
and I had taken up with Ted's old colleague and her old friend Ron
Markman (wow, "taken up with!" That sounds quite a lot like a 40's
comedy!) that I got to know the other Marilyn ---- wild and wooly
and funny and racy and with that
incredible energy level that leaves us all gasping. How lucky I am
to have stumbled into a new life in which this whole new Marilyn
(the one who no one will ever believe is 80, no matter what!) was
revealed! We both send you lots of love, and we will see you soon
on Central Park South.