Marilyn Silver leaves a legacy of stunning quilts, happy tastebuds and adoring family and friends

Marilyn Silver surrounded by her family.

Marilyn was a four-season friend.  From NoMI to Sarasota, we shared drinks, meals, plane rides and adventures.  Her late husband Bob was a friend, too, and Burton’s fishing buddy.

I met Marilyn some 50 years ago working on a Fashion Group fundraiser.  We created a fashion library named for Marilyn’s close friend and my colleague, late Detroit News fashion editor Tavy Stone.  Once a professional party planner, Marilyn was the perfect co-chair; the event: stellar.

In time, I watched Marilyn fight to save her son Randy, who died while still a young father.  I saw the countless nights Marilyn spent with him at Karmanos Cancer Center or on her sofa, trying to help him get comfortable, to find something he could eat.  We felt her despair over losing him, then watched her slowly find joy in life again.

Several years later, Bob became ill. Burton and I sat in his hospital room trying to figure something comforting to say while Marilyn moaned, “Why can’t they do something?”

Marilyn and Bob were married 62 years.   They’d drive to our farm south of Charlevoix—a tad hard to find.  They’d arrive still bickering about directions, Marilyn fuming, “I’m gonna divorce him.”  After Bob died, it was as though someone let the air out of Marilyn’s balloon.  She remained deflated for about a year, then rallied.  She focused on son and daughter-in-law Michael and Beth, sister Sharon, grandkids, a passel of nieces and nephews, and a horde of friends.

Her official obit reads: “A friend of almost everybody.”

Grandson Jack, giving Marilyn’s eulogy, called  his grandmother “loyal and generous.” He said, “She gave great advice.”   All true.  Marilyn and I traded book recommendations.  We attended oddball indie movies and discussed them after at the bar of PF Chang.

I love the quilt Marilyn made for me.

Marilyn was a talented artist.  She sewed dozens of quilts as gifts for family members and close friends.  I was honored to receive one.  For a recent birthday, Marilyn’s granddaughter Rachel had recipients take a photo with their quilts and published the photos in a book that attests to Marilyn’s creative talent.

Marilyn’s meals were also works of art.  Many began with gravlax from Bob’s fishing forays.  At the end of each dinner, Bob said, “That was the best meal I ever ate.”  An invitation to dine at Marilyn’s was a treat.  I’m blessed I was able to savor her cuisine while my stomach still cooperated.  It no longer does.  Just 12 days before Marilyn died, I sat at her dining table picking onions out of savory homemade meatloaf.  (The meal was technically prepared by Sharon.  Marilyn sat at the counter directing.)  “Suzy used to be my best customer,” Marilyn said.  “Now she’s a pain in the ass.”

(Next month, my sister and I will travel to Japan.  We’re staying at a ryokan, an inn where traditional food is served.  I alerted the trip organizer to my food issues,  saying I’d dine at the ryokan and eat what I could.  But I’ve been banished.  In an email, the organizer informed me the chef inspects plates after each course and becomes offended if food is left.   I’m just sorry Marilyn died before I could forward that email.)

Marilyn had flair.  Granddaughter Rachel once needed something to wear to a black tie event.  Marilyn owned a sequined shirt she wore with black pants.  As Rachel was then about 4 inches shorter, Marilyn suggested she wear the shirt as a dress.  “I got so many compliments,” Rachel says.  “All my friends wanted to borrow it.  Grama was so glamorous and creative.”

Marilyn’s style extended to her surroundings.  She and Bob built a home overlooking Round Lake in Charlevoix.  In the center of the great room—a red leather sofa.  Vaseline bowls, multi-colored goblets, boxes, pillows—treasures from her (sometimes our) antiquing excursions—were artfully arranged.  Days before she died, Marilyn bought exotic, well-trodden rugs from NoMI handbag maker Barbara May’s garage sale and had them turned into cushions.

Marilyn and her granddaughter Rachel

Rachel says, “She’d see a button or piece of trim at an antiques fair and know it was ‘something.’  A few months later, it turned up on a quilt.  She taught me to haggle on Canal Street in NY.   I didn’t visit my wedding venue ’til the day I was married because my grandmother and mother planned the whole thing.  Grama envisioned the ceiling of the tent looking like a tree with a trunk supporting it.  I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.”  (That’s saying a lot because Rachel runs a website, Love Stories TV, which features wedding videos.)

Only family and close friends knew about Marilyn’s cancer diagnosis.  She never wanted to be seen or treated as a victim.  When she first shared her illness with her family about 1 and 1/2 years ago, her extended family agreed to take shifts.  They stayed with Marilyn for a week or so at a time.  As she declined, someone she knew and loved was always there to help.

Marilyn thought, looked and acted years younger than 89.  She could, and did, talk to anyone of any age or station, including an hour long conversation with our then 5 year old granddaughter, Lindsay. Marilyn designed her home in Charlevoix to sleep multiples.  Nothing pleased her more than to have several of son Michael’s brawny biker buddies slumbering in her lower level.

Years ago, Marilyn advised me to wear eye make-up.  As Jack said, his grandmother gave good advice.  So when dressing for a funeral I knew would be tough, I dutifully applied eyeliner and mascara.  At the end of the service, there wasn’t much left.

I feared I wasn’t up to the challenge of capturing such a funny, feisty, much-loved friend.  Then I thought of the first line above.  In the funeral service, which—naturally—Marilyn planned, the rabbi read from Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season…”  It felt as though Marilyn gave me a thumbs up.

But 4 seasons x 50 years=200 seasons.  Not nearly enough.

As that wise bear Winnie said to Piglet, “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart.  I’ll stay there forever.”

Matriarch, artist, chef, collector, host, sage and “friend to almost everybody.”  You’re forever in our hearts.

30 thoughts on “Marilyn Silver leaves a legacy of stunning quilts, happy tastebuds and adoring family and friends

  1. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from editor David Crumm
    What an inspiring series of comments on the column this week! Your work really touched a lot of lives. Deep thanks, Ma’am!

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Appreciate your taking the time to acknowledge so many lovely comments. The appreciation is returned. Deep thanks back at you, Sir!

  2. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Linda Dresner
    What a beautiful way to remember and describe our girlfriend, Marilyn. Life is but a dream… and there it is.

  3. Linda Milne

    Wonderful tribute to your wonderful friend! Although I shared her company only a few times, I was delighted and completely charmed by her. I won’t forget her.

  4. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Amy Farbman
    Wonderful article about Marilyn. You definitely captured her personality and her spirit. Loved reading the part about the girls.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, Amy. She adored them all and was so thrilled your girls took the time to visit her toward the end of summer.

  5. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed:
    Audrey Shapiro: “Thank you for sharing. The wonderful part of Marilyn is that she gave us so many personal memories to remember. Reading them eases the pain and sadness.”
    Lynne Rosenthal: “What an amazing tribute you wrote on Marilyn. You captured our beloved friend. Every word was perfect. The photos were wonderful. I treasured our friendship and will keep Marilyn in my heart.”
    Elyse Straus. “This was wonderful to read. You did a beautiful job. Thanks so much.”

  6. Nancy Smith

    What a lovely and heartfelt tribute. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on such a remarkable woman and role model.

  7. Beth Silver

    Beautiful piece Suzy, you nailed it on every topic. We are all better off for knowing Marilyn and if you were lucky enough to be her friend well, you hit the jackpot! I will miss her in so many ways but grateful to be constantly reminded of her.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      So well said, Beth. We did hit the jackpot! She was such a gem. And she considered you the same. Thanks for sharing this column and a big thanks for all you and Michael and the whole family did for Marilyn during her last months. Something tells me the decor and the cuisine have notched up in heaven.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thank YOU, Rachel. For the help with this column. And for being such a delightful granddaughter to my friend.

  8. JUDITH` Koploy

    I Will remember out travels ,our fun, our laughs our sorrows ,such history!!!!
    Well done!!!

  9. Sharon Weinstock

    Thank you ,Suzy, for remembering my sister in such a beautiful way.
    I miss her so much! The daily calls, her advice, her recipes especially for me (no more than 3 or 4 steps)
    She was an amazing, talented, fabulous women!
    Thank you,

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, Sharon. I know how close you were. I can’t imagine how you’re faring without her. She was a maven in so many departments. She adored you. I grinned at your mention of 3 or 4 step recipes. I can just hear her thinking: gotta keep this easy for Sharon. She was devoted to you. God bless you both.

  10. Sharon weinstock

    Thank you, Suzy, for remembering my sister in such a beautiful way!
    I miss her so much! I miss the calls every day, the advice she gave from the time she took over as my mom when I was 12 and she was 17.
    She will forever be in my heart.

  11. Rachel Jo Silver

    Thank you Suzy for this beautiful article and for being such a wonderful friend to my grandmother! xoxo

  12. Rachel Jo Silver

    Thank you Suzy for this beautiful article and for being such a wonderful friend to my Grama! xoxoxo

  13. Barbara Hillman

    Beautifully written and sorry for your loss. Marilyn sounded like a most talented, respected, and genuine friend.

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