Marilyn Lee Oney, age 71, passed away peacefully at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota on May 9. The first of eight siblings, Marilyn was born to Richard and Marie (Lee) Charlson in Albert Lea, Minnesota. She graduated from Albert Lea High School and continued her education at Austin (Jr) Community College, starting a career in office work. She was diagnosed early in adulthood with mental illness and was in long-term care for the rest of her life, remaining close to her mother and siblings. Marilyn was an avid reader and learner and possessed an adventurous soul. Marilyn received wonderful care by the staff of River Oaks in Lake City and her social workers. Her brilliant mind, quick and sharp wit, and innocent sweetness drew admiration and love from the people who knew her. She was preceded in death by her mother, father, husband, and brother Chuck. She is survived by siblings David Lee, Suzanne Riley, Linda Terveer, Brian Lee, Dianne Heaney, and Philip Charlson and daughter Andrea Anderson. Memories of Marilyn, by Suzanne Riley My first memory of anything was Marilyn's sixth birthday party. I was smaller and younger than the other kids, and I cried because everyone ran ahead of me in the races, so Mom told everyone to let me win one race. My prize was a package of Doublemint gum and Marilyn's sparkling eyes and delighted laugh. I remember that she was beautiful that day, and always after. She often gave this enigmatic, Mona Lisa sort of secretive smile before she'd break into a big toothy grin. But set aside my early memories for a moment. Much more significantly, before any of the rest of us existed, Marilyn at birth created a deep bond with her mother that I think must have flourished in Marilyn's heart even after Mom's death in 2019. The first of eight siblings, undoubtedly Marilyn was Mom's dearest. Each of us had Mom's love, and each relationship with her was unique. But Mom's extraordinary love for her firstborn was clearly manifested in every mother-daughter experience, from shouting matches to giggles to shopping to celebrating, throughout everyday life. Their profound closeness was most apparent to me after Marilyn became a mental health patient at age 19, when Mom instinctively drew a protective shield around her, treating Marilyn as the vulnerable child she became. Memories of Marilyn pre-age 19 are the dearest to me, because my big sister was my childhood idol. I wanted to be like her in (almost) every way. My memories of Marilyn include many relating to education and learning. She was an avid, dedicated, serious learner, absorbing information and analyzing it continuously. There is a wonderful photo of Marilyn and David going off to school, lunch buckets in hand. She read voraciously, and I can feel today the comfort I sensed as a child, leaning against Marilyn as she read out loud to me and showed me how to help her practice her Latin, giggling over funny excerpts in the novels she loved. One of her early good reads?...Seventeen by Booth Tarkington. Later on, heftier love stories, such as her all-time favorite, re-read dozens of times, Gone With the Wind. A product of the 1950s and 1960s, Marilyn was obsessed with her hair, a typical teen for those times. There was a certain comedy in her wine red hair color exploits, experiments, and failures. Thankfully, her graduation portrait reflected great success in the art of smooth hairstyle and sophisticated, realistically red hair. The Breck (shampoo) girls' portraits in Seventeen Magazine were Marilyn's model of hair perfection...she would carefully cut out the page each month and tape them on our bedroom wall...there must have been 15 of them, and she and I adored these beautiful young ladies, taking turns choosing which one we wanted to look like. For the curious and too-young-to-remember, https://clickamericana.com/eras/1960s/famous-breck-girl-shampoo-ads and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breck_Shampoo Makeup was a smaller, but important to her, part of being beautiful. She taught me her fine points of this; thank God there are no photos documenting her student sister's learning challenges in this regard. But there are memories of Marilyn and her girl friends Vicky, Barbara, and others talking teen talk. So many other childhood memories I have of Marilyn... • Riding horses together on gravel roads and in dusty ditches, hiding in the woods, gardening and other 4-H activities, babysitting siblings. • Watching her practice piano in serious concentration. • The excitement of her placing second in the Spelling Bee, with her picture in the local paper! • The realization that she was respected by her teachers, considered one of their brightest. • Doing the dinner dishes together, which usually was preceded by or led to a fierce fight between us...fights when sometimes she would use her full adrenalin might to throw me across the room, and then show her tenderness in making up afterward. • Walking to school together, trusting her know the way, to get us there and back home. • Spending days at the beach with friends and our long walks across town, including a stop at the ice cream shop. • Skating at Academy Park, or was it Frank Hall Park? • Fun visits with cousins at the Perrys, the Brandsoys, the Wicks, at Grandma Mary's, at Edgewood and Pioneer Parks for huge family reunions. • Double-dates, boy crazes, drives around the countryside, skating on Bear Lake with the Riley boys, dressing up for church and barely trying to not make each other giggle during Mass. • Playing tennis with our beat-up rackets and barely bouncing balls and fancying ourselves as pros. • Lying on our side by side twin beds, quietly reading books. Marilyn's demons of our turbulent and sometimes traumatic childhood were absorbed into her schizophrenia and tended to obscure her brilliant mind. But in her final years, her anxiety seemed to dissipate, giving way to contentment, largely thanks to Mom's unwavering love, her caregivers at River Oaks, and her social workers. Her pure, innocent sweetness of heart and soul were manifested in the letters she wrote to her siblings. Letters from Marilyn often included a one or even a five-dollar bill, along with inquiries about the million, trillion, zillion, gazillion dollars she buried somewhere or other for each of us. She followed those inquiries with, have you got some money for me (always worth a try)? Most of Marilyn's messages in those letters were about how much she loved each of us, how we were the smartest, loveliest, wisest, kindest, ever, and she advised us to be good-hearted and nice and happy. Such simple words, stated with such innocent elegance.