Marjorie Ehlen was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Marjorie Norris, a landscape architect, and Thayer Horton, a private-school English teacher. She had one younger sister, Janet. Due to her parents’ preoccupations, her earliest memories were of walking alone through Shaker Heights in the cold of winter to kindergarten for hot meals and smiles from teachers — “Sally,” a name she gave herself from a childhood book, “could do anything all by herself.”
At the beginning of the war in 1944, Marjorie’s family moved to Pasadena, arriving on her 12th birthday. There, she was Valedictorian at Pasadena High School and put herself through Occidental College, graduating in 1954 with a major in Art History. She loved school! Marjorie graduated on a Sunday and married Peter W. Ehlen the following Monday. They lived in Palo Alto, Missouri, and Alaska before settling in Santa Barbara in 1957. Their 40 year marriage was blessed with 3 children and seven grandchildren.
Marjorie purposefully gave her children a childhood unlike her own: she created a home that was predictable and efficient and abundant in fun-filled explorations of art, cooking, sewing, and reading. She hand-made gorgeous Christmas photo cards and detailed family photo albums with sewn covers and her unique penmanship. Her spaghetti, flank steak, tamale pie, breakfast sandwich, banana bread, and chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies were divine. She cherished the achievement that all three children graduated from college.
She was an avid reader since childhood, reading 60 books a year and remembering each and every one of them. And she was a fighter: she persevered through bouts of mental illness her whole life.
“Sally” was never hesitant to self-affirm: she had her childhood doll designs published in Wee Wisdom magazine; was Girls State; woodblock-printed subjects like Cesar Chavez and Genesis while surrounded by her three young children; built large book libraries in each of her children’s rooms; played piano, violin, guitar, ukulele, and autoharp; and was an empty-nester Jazzercise enthusiast and published poet.
Marjorie was a member of the Child’s Estate Auxiliary for 15 years, volunteering at Zoo-B-Ques starting in 1972. She was a faithful Foster Feeder to a variety of animals for 30 years, always dedicating them to her children and grandchildren. She loved our Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Botanic Gardens.
More recently, she flourished as a paper artist and trivia champion at Wood Glen Hall. At her final stop, Serenity House, she watched the hummingbirds in her fountain as her children read aloud “who-dunnits”, books on the habits of owls, along with listening to Lake Wobegon and Car Talk.
Marjorie is cherished by the life-long childhood friends she wrote letters to; the friends of her children, who saw her as one of the kindest, gentlest, and most intelligent parents; and all the grandchildren who call her “Gramma Marjorie.” She is survived by: Pete & Vicki Ehlen and their three children Ryan, Heather, and Nick; Mark & Deborah Ehlen and their two children Forrest and Madison; and her daughter Alison Galindo and her two children Nico and Kenny. Her sister Janet Horton and former husband Peter W. Ehlen preceded her in death.
Marjorie’s family would love to thank the staff and the activities director Holly Walling at Wood Glen Hall and for the loving kindness she & they were given at Serenity House. At Marjorie’s request no memorial is planned.
One of Marjorie’s poems: “Immersion” (about Motherhood)
She doesn’t drown
in wet towels
dirty socks and muddy pants
toys on the floor
small furry creatures
caged in bedrooms.
through the years
with strong strokes
the quiet and orderly
shore of solitude.