Marlene Phillips Lily
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
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.