About Marilyn

I was born in Gilroy, California at a time when orchards formed a carpet over the vast, fertile  Santa Clara Valley and poppies filled the fields with an orange glow.

Marilyn in Poppy Field, San Martin, CA

Grandparents on both sides of my family, the Italians and the Czechs, owned fruit ranches in the valley, and I spent summers sorting cherries, cutting cots (apricots) and picking sugar prunes.

Now nearly all those orchards have been paved over for parking lots, and silicon has replaced fruit as the valley’s claim to fame.

These vast changes continually remind me that the past has faded, and that my memories of it are fading too.

I graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley and earned a Master’s degree in Education, specializing in Instructional Technologies, from San Francisco State University.

In the mid-Seventies, I conducted my first oral histories with Sicilian fishermen on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. At the time, I was working as a travel consultant for the E.N.I.T.- the Italian Government Travel Office, located in the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco.

There I picked up some Italian, which was very helpful when I was engaged by Fabrizia Lanza of the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School to interview her father, Venceslao Lanza, at Case Vecchie, Regaleali, Sicily.  Although I conducted the interviews in English, understanding something of the Italian language and culture helped me to elicit this noble family’s legacy.

After many years working in information technology and instructional design, I combined my love of language and history by creating Circle of Life Stories. It’s a privilege to help people write their family histories and life stories and work with communities and organizations to create oral history and community memory projects. As a certified Life Writing facilitator for Turning Memories into Memoirs, I also conduct memoir workshops in which people write and share their life stories.

I have conducted oral histories for the Mill Valley Historical Society, for the Faces of Marin City Project and for the Save Our Stories Oral History Project of the Alliance for American Quilts and the International Quilt Festival. I am also a fiber artist and love everything to do with fiber arts.

I have documented in mixed media San Francisco’s Madonna del Lume Celebration and the Blessing of the Fishing Fleet, Senator Diane Feinstein’s submission to the Library of Congress’ Bicentennial Local Legacy Program. I am a former director of the Mill Valley Historical Society, for which I edited and produced its quarterly newsletter. I am a member of the Association of Personal Historians and the Oral History Association.

For the Anne T. Kent California Room of the Marin County Free Library, I have converted to narrative form oral history interviews conducted in the 1970s by Anne Kent and Carla Ehat. I continue to conduct oral histories in Marin County for the California History Room. I have written biographies of several honorees in the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame and have authored Marin City Memories, a book honoring Marin City elders who migrated from the South during World War II.

I write a monthly history column for the San Rafael Patch and have had poetry published  in the West Marin Review.

I am co-creator with Jacqueline Janssen of LeaveLight, a motivational program for holistic end-of-life planning, and co-author  of the bookLeaveLight: A Motivational Guide to Holistic End-of-Life Planning. LeaveLight covers both practical and spiritual aspects of planning. Along with forms to document vital information for caregivers, it includes life review questions, how to write a legacy letter, and other topics that are related to personal history.

Travel is one of my passions, but I am always happy to return home to Marin County, one of the world’s most beautiful and biologically diverse areas. To honor the natural beauty of this region and its benefits to the psyche,  I created the film Marin Mind/Scapes: Stories of Art, Nature and Wellness. I interviewed nine artists for the project, which was sponsored by a grant through the California Council for the Humanities.