Washington DC Melancholy

As we disclosed in our previous Newsletter, we planned to spend nearly a month in Washington DC, helping to sort through and address a lifetime Legacy left behind by my Aunt Marilee, who passed from COVID in September. This was a two-fold challenge:

  • A FULL Lifetime of possessions
  • a Lifetime of Art.

She said with a tear in her eye, “Marilee and I were the same size…”


Fortunately, we found some terrific vendors who helped us and Marilee’s daughter make spot decisions about possessions. Our time there included preparing for items to be shipped; delivering clothing to Marilee’s dear long-time Home Aide, who will send some to family in Guatemala but who will keep some things because, as she said with a tear in her eye, “Marilee and I were the same size…”; Shipping Marilee’s computers to waiting cousin Cecily, etc. etc. etc.

Several weeks of logistics like this, all made immensely more complex by COVID limitations at then assisted living community.  No one was actually allowed into Marilee’s apartment except her daughter,  and she only twice.  Come moving day, Marilee’s daughter tagged items, they were packed and put on a truck to be delivered locally (some) or shipped by UPS (many more) or disposed of/donated. The apartment needed to be empty by the end of the day; and It was a difficult day, but went off more or less without a hitch.

this is because people would LIVE IN THEM if they did


With regard to Marilee’s art, we delivered several sculptures to the collection at American University, to join several already in residence there. We arranged for a storage locker to maintain the art, with electricity for quality lighting and a table for display to interested parties. The lighting was a challenge: Who knew that Storage Lockers do not have or offer power outlets? Turns out this is because people would LIVE IN THEM if they did. I was able to convince one facility to put in an outlet for us; essential for displaying art as it is being placed.

Such serendipity; Obviously, this was meant to be!!


We also interviewed several possibilities for agents to represent the Trust in disposition of the art, and the story of how one in particular came to the fore is worth telling… We had several referrals locally; none of whom seemed particularly interested or able to represent the body of work involved. Then, a friend of mine from Chicago said she knew someone in WASHDC and wrote to introduce us. This contact lead directly to a gentleman who, it turns out, used to own a gallery where Marilee had exhibited work in the past, and who owned several of her pieces and had sold many more. Such serendipity; Obviously, this was meant to be!!

I am not sure the actions documented in this post properly close the chapter of Marilee’s life and impact on me…but I left DC with a couple of very special mementos, the stories of which I will briefly tell.

Marilee’s Medallion

In going through boxes I found not one but TWO special medallions presented by Mayors of Washington DC to residents in excess of 100yrs young. Yep – Marilee was a multiple-recipient. I took one for our souvenier wall – one she received at the age of 107. It will remind me of her every time I see it; remind me to live each day with eyes wide open to new wonders in front of me.

And, as we were wrapping up the loading of boxes, Marilee’s daughter asked me about what to do with Marilee’s Liquor Cabinet. I suggested that all the stuff be put in a box and brought down – we’d toss it in our car and see if there was anything salvageable at a later time.

And so we did! Opening the box, the first few bottles were what I pretty much expected (Marilee didn’t drink much): There was an opened bottle of Red Wine (opened possibly a decade or more ago). An unopened bottle of cheap Vodka that was also at least a decade old judging from its yellowing label. A couple bottles of unopened Grocery-store White Wines. Three Beers, no doubt acquired for me, in honor of one of our visits over the past years. We tossed the Red, obviously, and Liz and I can manage the others – for cooking if nothing else.

Ancient Liquor

It was the three dusty and really old bottles of spirits that caught my attention!

It seems Marilee’s first husband, Bernie, had a client who gave him cases of Liquor every Christmas. Bernie died in the 70s, giving some idea how old these bottles were. Joan could not tell me if these were in Lieu of or in addition to fees owing (I have had clients in the past who bartered for fees, though not usually with high-end Scotch). These bottles, unopened in all these years, were all that remained. One “Dewars Ancestors,” One “Highland Inn” (both Scotches) and One bottle of Cointreau. The “Highland Inn” was the only one I could not track down on Google.

It seems these bottles were quite valuable if purchased at auction; so what to do with them?


an ethical dilemma of the first order


It was an ethical dilemma of the first order: A valuable find SHOULD go into the estate; but they were ONLY valuable if they could find their way to a collector willing to pay for them. I posed the question to the trustees as follows: We can attempt to find someone who would buy them from the estate (of course the estate would net half of what Google thought they were worth). Or, I could keep them with us, and with each sipping, raise a toast to Marilee.

Without hesitation, the Trustees unanimously allocated them to RV WHERE YET for “safe keeping of the latter kind.”

And, slipping forward in time for a moment, to celebrate the Election results that seemed certain then but still uncertified now, we have already opened one Scotch, whose cork dissolved, but after straining served well in a Toast to Marilee. Id like to think she was present in Michigan and Georgia and MOST DEFINITELY in Pennsylvania, overseeing the correct outcomes there.

There was a lot else we did in DC, so let me spend a little time moving off of the melancholy spot. We made a couple of trips into DC…one was in search of an RBG Tee-shirt for Liz’s sister. We though MAYBE there would be a vendor on the steps of the Supreme Court? NOT. Downtown DC was a ghost town, really, and certainly no vendors in residence. Liz decided she could go back to the RV and order a shirt online and without exaggeration tell Susie that the shirt “was purchased in DC” since that transaction was executed in the District!

Washington Campsite

I should talk a little about our “Domicile” while in DC. The Cherry Valley RV Park was an AWESOME place with Lots of amenities – a pool, laundry, near a bike path leading into College Park, MD, etc. — in normal times and/or with kids. In said “normal times” it even has a bus that would take us to the end of the METRO Line, upon which we could get to the Mall, Zoo, all the museums, etc. With COVID surging, we were NOT getting on a Subway OR spending time indoors, but Next Time…

So, what else did we do in DC? Well, we managed to have fun, that’s for sure. Wandered around a bit by car, prompted by needing to organize Art Storage, deliver pieces to museums and some estate papers to Steve Goldman, one of Marilee’s Trustees and the Executor of her estate.

Steve was inconsolable about being unable to provide us with a meal and conversation. I should explain this a bit: Steve agreed to the Executor and Trustee Roles when Marilee was 80 and Steve was 60. WHO KNEW she would live another 27 years? Steve, now 85 and therefore in the highest COVID risk category, was not engaging outside or for sure inside his house with anyone for any reason, which we COMPLETELY understand.

We PROMISED to come back post-COVID, but he found a very good contemporaneous substitute: He has a parking spot and no car and lives near crowded Dupont Circle. Big City People know the value of such a thing. Maybe not quite as valuable as breaking bread, but right up there!

Flapper and Mechanic

We also took part in a Ballroom Dance with the “Town Club” group we belonged to in Chicago before we started this adventure. They have been, of necessity since gatherings of a proximate nature (and dancing by definition is that!) are decidedly dangerous, doing Zoom Dances; and we were invited as guests to one! The theme was “The Roaring 20’s.” Liz and I acquired appropriate attire at a Halloween Popup store, and we set up our “patio” as a dance floor. WHAT A BLAST!!!

Newly-Lighted Patio

It was a little dark, though! So I ordered and installed an LED Light Strip to brighten the Patio for evening events like this. We have since participated in many an after-dark Zoom events!

One day we took a long bike ride into College Park — in anticipation of Beer and Sushi… I found a Brewery that had such a combination advertised, so we thought that could be the target for a day of sightseeing-by-bike. When we got there, we found NO outdoor seating, so NO BEER or Sushi For us.  🙁 

While in DC, Liz even managed to get her Molé on! We are pretty fussy about our Mexican Restaurants. Liz likes Molé, and so we will ALWAYS go to one if they feature it on the menu…and we found a little family place that did!! Carryout back to the bus!

We also managed to visit our friends the Wilners, who live in nearby Potomac. With just a bit of recrimination from Paul, who was taking it VERY personally that our visits have ALWAYS been on or just before TAX DEADLINES (Paul Manages a CPA firm in nearby Bethesda).  If Paul is seen at all when we have visited, it is for 10 seconds late in the evening. To PROVE it was not personal, we actually saw the Wilners TWICE – once before and once after Oct15; the latter with Paul in FULL ATTENDANCE.

In keeping with barbeque etiquette, we called Laurie on the way out to Potomac to ask if we could bring something. In the middle of the COVID-APOCOLYPSE, here was our list: Marshmallows, Chocolate bars and Graham Crackers (obviously for S’mores) and TWO GALLONS OF CLOROX BLEACH.

And as testament to the new normalcy of our upside-down world, it never even occurred to us to be offended that Laurie needed the latter to sterilize her deck and surrounds after OUR PRESENCE….it just seemed normal!

As our help with the needs of Marilee’s estate wound to completion, we started to consider or next path. We planned to be in Galveston Texas for most of the winter so we decided to start heading that direction…along the way, a few planned and unplanned stops.

Next post, please!!

4 thoughts on “Washington DC Melancholy

  • I’m very sorry for the loss of Aunt Marilee. I’ve heard such great stories about her since the JHI conference in DC in 2014. Best regards Liz and Dan. Stay safe

  • Our sincere condolences for your loss of Marilee. Would be interested in hearing more about her life. Obviously, she leaves good memories.

    All good wishes on your continued adventures and Happy

    Bev and Todd Parkhurst

  • After seeing the photos of Marilee’s art legacy, I wish so badly I could have met her! There seemed to be no medium she didn’t conquer with great vision, style and talent!!

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