Marlene Lily died Monday, November 28, at home in Santa Rosa after a long bout with cancer. In her passage, she was under hospice care and surrounded by her extended family.
Marlene was born in Rochester, New York, in 1942, to Warren and Marion Smith Phillips. A graduate of Our Lady of Mercy High School in Rochester, she earned a bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University.
Moving to Palo Alto with her husband, author Jerome Charyn, she became an editor at Stanford University Press and began a life of political activism, joining the movement to end the Vietnam War. As part of that effort, she became an editor of the Peninsula Observer, a radical bi-weekly newspaper that opposed the war and also championed women’s liberation and civil rights. She reported widely on the Black Panther Party and became close to a number of leading Panthers, friendships that she maintained until she died.
Moving to San Francisco, she took up a variety of working careers. She drove a cab and was full of stories about her riders. An excellent photographer, she set up and photographed foods for articles and advertisements. She managed concerts for Muddy Waters.
Marlene finally became a longtime resident of Sonoma County, involved in many community endeavors. In nearly four decades in the North Bay, Marlene raised goats for milk and cheese in Lake County, sang in the choir at Santa Rosa’s Community Baptist Church, and for a while lived at the Sonoma Ashram, where she oversaw construction and repairs. She loved working with tools.
Combining her self-taught knowledge of construction and her intuition about people, she became one of Sonoma County’s top-selling realtors and maintained her business until recently.
Marlene’s modest home in Santa Rosa’s Junior College neighborhood reflected her personality: the front yard a well-ordered forest of small trees and bushes, the back yard an overflowing small orchard edged with planters full of vegetables. Inside, her walls were lined with the oils she did when she took up painting again,something she had loved doing in college.
Still politically active in her later years, when she died Marlene was secretary of the Sonoma County NAACP and a board member of Clean Water Sonoma-Marin, whose Facebook page she constructed. For years, she also actively supported bilingual radio station KBBF and the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County. Her last articles were exposés of the cover-up of fluoridation.
Marlene is survived by her son, Daniel (Yun Mei); grandson, Dylan; brother, Tom Phillips; sister, Linda Trame (Michael); nieces Bridget (Todd) Shingler, Michelle, and Janine Trame; nieces Shawntina, Sabrina, Katrina, and Gabrielle Phillips; her stepmother, Eunice Phillips; and two grandnieces. She leaves a wide range of close friends from every stage of her life.
Marlene (Phillips) Lili (1942 – 2016), The Press Democrat, posted on legacy.com. Link
Peninsula Observer Presents New View, by Lang Atwood, The Stanford Daily, Volume 154, Issue 11, p. 4, 4 October 1968. Link