FORCE OF NATURE (and National Treasure)

While stuck in Florida, watching the chaotic, partisan and ridiculously inconsistent response nationwide, there has been a little bit of drama in our family around the Pandemic. This has occupied more than a little of our attention and emotions, and I thought I would share this with you. Not because anyone NEEDS more about the national disaster, but because everyone can use a feel-good story.

Multiple Pandemic Survivor at 107!

Many of you may remember stories about my Great-Aunt Marilee told here in these pages. Here was a story from 2017, another in 2018,  and finally one early this year. Marilee is a professional Artist and spectacular human being, who happens to be 107 years old. She lives in WashDC, where she continues to show us ALL how to NOT-age gracefully!

And, Marilee Caught COVID-19!

A brief political digression. Which is really NOT political, but has somehow become so as EVERYTHING has in 2020. If I say that the sun rises in the east, I will be accused of fomenting an Obama/Sanders Socialist Agenda and this is FAKE NEWS. I promise, I will finish the TOTALLY UPLIFTING story, but first…

We do NOT need to choose between people dying of COVID-19 and people Dying of economic and social starvation. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT, despite all the news reports to the contrary.


Marilee lives and works in an Assisted Living Community. She UNDOUBTEDLY contracted the virus from an asymptomatic staff person BEFORE PPE was fully available or the rule, during that period in January and February when our country was handling the pandemic like a rudderless ship. Even to this day, there is not enuf testing to ensure staff in such communities are negative, political bluster to the contrary. She was an innocent bystander, and she is the reason, along with EVERYONE ELSE IN THE USA, why we all need to carefully consider our interactions with others, the wearing of masks etc. None of these things are “government Over-reach or Oppression.” They are common consideration – to prevent infecting others by just being in their presence.

So, to continue the story as promised…

Marilee presented at the ER, and her daughter and son were told:

“There is Virtually 0% chance a 107 yr old will survive Covid.”

I cannot say Marilee actually said this in response, but I am sure she was thinking it:

“Well, there was a 0% chance I would live to 107, so let’s not panic just yet…”

After 3 or 4 days, the Doc said this to her son, Harvey:

“Your mother came to the hospital to die, but I think we are going to disappoint her!”

3 or 4 days later,  she was released to go home;  back to her studio and art.

And, once she was home, the INTERVIEW REQUESTS Began. Word about a woman (who has always been a GREAT INTERVIEW – there are several I can link to and will later in this post) who survived the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 is apparently irresistable. The first article was in an Israeli News Paper, and they actually spoke to Marilee’s Daughter as Marilee’s voice was a little raspy. Joan did a GREAT JOB telling Marilee’s story and piquing more interest. Since then  there has been an article in the Washington Post, a bit on MSNBC and more.  There are pending requests from PBS, NBC and still more. So, the question became: How to enable and organize all this. And, even market it – Marilee is, after all, a professional artist, and International Interviews can certainly be leveraged to promote her Art!!??

I have been managing Marilee’s Computer for years – the one she uses to create Digital Art Pieces that she sells. I knew it could be used for Facetime or Zoom Interviews, but with a few complexities. One of Marilee’s hearing aids was lost in the commotion and the other was not adequate, so we needed VOLUME and NOISE ISOLATION. I was able to work with one of the staff, Morgan Gale, in her building, who has always helped Marilee with basic computer and connection/cable issues. Together, we installed and connected an amplified headset so she can hear and be interviewed.

I also worked with others in her circle to enhance her website. Her “old” website was about 7 years old, and was nice enuf, but in this 7 years, Marilee has produced probably 100 additional and completely NEW pieces. She was actually preparing for a Gallery Show when the Pandemic hit and she was infected. Plus, she has been interviewed and featured many times in various media. Something needed to be done, to enable and educate the enhanced interest public attention could create.

Linda Hansell, a cousin, had written Marilee’s Autobiography a couple years ago (available on Amazon, here), knew a web designer (Claire Williams), who, since the world had shrivelled in on itself was, shall we say, not fully committed to projects at the moment. Linda and Claire have done a magnificent job getting the site revamp done, while I, with a completely non-functional right-brain have helped on the technicalities in the back end. I was able to gain access to Marilee’s collection of Digital Art by virtue of having installed Carbonite for backup years ago, and Marilee’s photography teacher, Eliot Cohen was able to select and provide proper JPGs for this new website. Linda’s brother David also was able to borrow some time from Marisa Kaufman, a PR person on his staff, to assist with managing interview requests.

The result is now online in time for the spate of interviews coming in the near future, as Marilee’s stamina allows, and is really spectacular!

We are ALL looking forward to her getting back to work, to creating more and more pieces and an even more impressive legacy (if that is possible). In fact, I made sure, in the website redesign, that we considered maintainability going forward. I am pretty sure she will still be making art 10 or 15 years into the future!!

If you are interested in past interviews, I promise your curiosity will be richly rewarded; there are specific Media Links on that site:

All of my work with Marilee, Facetime and her website re-do has been GREATLY enabled by the KICK-ASS Internet connection I obtained from Comcast. Usually, we are stuck with poor or non-existent service from an RV Park or our cell provider. In Naples, I was able to get Comcast for ONE MONTH!!

More on that in the next post.

5 thoughts on “FORCE OF NATURE (and National Treasure)

  • OMG! What a fascinating person and how inspirational!! I have a TC Board meeting in a few minutes and a virtual cocktail hour with my committee this afternoon but I look forward to seeing Marilee’s artwork later.

  • In your intro to this truly inspirational chapter you mention “an inspirational STORE”, thinking you meant story? Just checking…
    I read ALL of the episodes and interviews of your Aunt and wow! She is surely a positive force of nature! I love her outlook and energy and envy her drive to get up and pursue her art. Such wisdom and what a thoroughly encouraging life lesson in this blog! And of course I always appreciate your skilled telling of the adventure you and Liz are living. Stay safe and celebrate every day…pretty sure you do!! Hugs and blessings to you both from TX where we’re beginning to “open up” happily! ??

    • Marilee is an incredible woman and an inspiration during this pandemic. That is really cool to hear that many of the national media outlets have featured her and her story.

      See ya!

  • Marilee~the ninja! What a fascinating, eventful life she has led. I remember seeing some of her art at your house in Chicago and so very impressive. And now surviving Covid 19 at the age of 107…Bravo to her and her will to live. You’re so lucky to have your Auntie in your life. Take care~be safe.

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