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Marilyn Jones Altman

Date of Birth

October 11, 1924

Date of Death

August 19, 2019

Marilyn Jones Altman, a fifty-three-year resident of Santa Barbara, passed away at Serenity House. Her daughter and sons, granddaughter and niece were with her. She died as she lived, with dignity and grace. She would have been 95 in October.

Born Marilyn Anne Jones in Kewanee, Illinois, she and her family weathered the Great Depression. The eldest of four children, Marilyn was bright and beautiful as a girl and young woman. She graduated with distinction from Kewanee High School and received a scholarship from the Baker Fund which allowed her to attend two years at Monmouth College where she pledged Pi Beta Phi. After that she worked for the Burlington Railroad in Chicago before accepting a position with the U.S. Army as a civilian employee at the Oakland (CA) Army Base. After the war ended, she returned to Kewanee and worked for several years at the Welch Law Offices. In 1948 she became acquainted with a newcomer to Kewanee, C. William Altman, who had come to town to help his sister and her husband launch a women’s clothing store. Marilyn and Bill were married on August 19, 1949. A son, John, was born the following year, followed by son James and daughter Barbara. Throughout the fifties and early sixties, Marilyn was a stay-at-home mom while remaining active in the League of Women Voters and the Tuesday Club.

In 1965 Marilyn and Bill decided they would move to Santa Barbara. They arrived on a gloomy Tuesday in June, 1966. The family stayed at the Motel Six on East Beach before moving to a rental and a year later to a house of their own on Mission Ridge Rd. During this time Marilyn worked at administrative positions in real estate and law offices. She plunged into Adult Ed and took classes in landscape painting and world affairs. She continued her work with the League of Women Voters. Later she decided to go back to school and finish her B.A. at UCSB. In 1975, she graduated, summa cum laude, with a degree in art history. Her experience as a re-entry student was very rewarding and her family benefited from her vast erudition in both European and Asian art.

Marilyn and Bill travelled extensively in Europe for many years, including several year-long stays in France. She treasured her French and Dutch friends.

In 1998 Marilyn and her dear friend, Janet Larson, founded The Fourth Wednesday Book Club which focused on books about American history. The book club is still going strong, a tribute to its founders. She also found time to participate in a local garden club and volunteered for the City of Santa Barbara’s Architectural Survey, going door-to-door to create a catalog of architecturally significant houses. She served on the boards of two homeowner associations. She and Bill also attended classical music concerts at UCSB and at the Lobero. For many years, Marilyn was a member of the “Ahmanson Group,” six friends who attended plays together at the Los Angeles Music Center.

A lifelong reader, Marilyn’s favorite authors included Jane Austen, Alice Munro, Iris Murdoch and John McPhee.

Marilyn’s children remember with particular appreciation (and wonder) her willingness to engage with their music. She could, for example, list her favorite songs from the “Aftermath” album by the Rolling Stones.

Marilyn was an avid walker and hiker, all around Santa Barbara and on the front country. She enjoyed a backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada in the 1970s.

Some of Marilyn’s favorite places included the Whale’s Tail bench at Shoreline Park, Jalama Beach and Figueroa Mountain.

Marilyn treasured her granddaughter, Eden Knox, and always enjoyed recalling their adventures together when Eden was little.

Marilyn was a devoted and fiercely loyal mother to her three children. She was not given to showy emotions, but her kids knew how much she loved them. She modeled kind and considerate behavior while avoiding self-aggrandizing display. She expressed a wish to live long enough to see Trump turned out of office. Those of us who continue on will do our best to make sure it happens.

A memorial gathering will be announced in the near future. Donations are encouraged to the World Wildlife Fund or The Nature Conservancy.

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