Marilyn Bowie
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Marilyn Stories

Ruth Newton  May Del Rio Julie Newton Tim Lannan Dorothy & Mel Semmel
Diane Redd Barb Cabot      


Ruth Newton

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!  - - Ruth Newton

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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 sorrow.

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.


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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 there.

 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.  


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Tim Lannan

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 respectful, relationship.

 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

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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 Semmel

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Diane Redd

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.

Happy Birthday!

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 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. 


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