Marilyn Spitz Abrams, who spent summers on the Vineyard for more than 40 years, died — peacefully and painlessly — at home in Palo Alto, Calif., on Thanksgiving Day. She was 94.
She was born in Brooklyn to Polish immigrant parents who ran a flower shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. While at Brooklyn College, she went to a summer program at Cornell in 1940, and met her husband-to-be, Herb Abrams, who was a student there.
They married in 1943. The marriage lasted 73 years until Herb died earlier this year at 95.
For a few years after their marriage, she worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to help put him through medical school, and at the same time was able to receive her master’s degree in economics from Columbia.
Soon after, in 1946, she gave birth to her daughter Nancy. In 1948 Marilyn and Herb drove across the country after he accepted a job at the Stanford Medical School in San Francisco. The following year her son John was born.
She raised her kids in the Bay Area and practiced interior design. Beauty in all things was woven into the fabric of her life — she had a tremendous sense of design about space, furnishings, fashion, and gardens; later in life she would devote herself to creating art.
In 1967, with their children pursuing their own paths, she and Herb moved to Boston, where she dedicated herself to social work. She was a longtime pregnancy counselor at the Florence Crittenden Clinic. During her time in Boston, she began to study and practice wood sculpture. Despite all her personal endeavors, she also managed to be a tremendously supportive partner to her husband’s professional career.
During this time she began to vacation on the Vineyard. In 1975 she worked with her son John to design and build a house on Middle Road in Chilmark. Marilyn and Herb spent every summer there.
In 1985 they moved back to California. Marilyn continued to do social work, but ceramic sculpture became her great passion. For many years she produced elegant abstract free-form ceramic pieces.
The Bay Area was the place she loved the best. During the two long periods in California (1948–67 and 1985–2016) she created wonderful homes and gardens in San Francisco, Marin, and Palo Alto. She was truly at home there, and during the second period, she enjoyed hosting her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren at her gracious home in Palo Alto. She was a homemaker in the largest sense of the word.
During her last 10 years, as the ravages of Alzheimer’s irrevocably altered her experience of life, she was lovingly cared for by her husband and her two devoted caretakers, Juliet Peralta and Regina Malonzo, who became important members of the family.
Marilyn is survived by her daughter Nancy (Richard Eilbert) and son John (Christine); in addition to three grandchildren, Pinto and Sophie Abrams, and Natasha Eilbert, and three great-grandchildren,Kalib, Silas, and Axel Abrams.
Memorial donations in memory of Marilyn Abrams may be made to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, 34 Washington Street, Suite 200, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481; curealz.org.