Marilyn Joan Singe
Marilyn Joan Singe, a lifelong Hillside NJ resident, was born into the teeth of the depression on August 28, 1934 to Lottie Mae and Herb Singe. She joined her almost eight year older brother, also named Herb, to complete Herb and Lottie Mae's family.
Marilyn was a quiet, shy young girl who stayed close to her family, especially her beloved mother, whom she adored all of her life. In order to bring her out of her shell, her parents arranged for Marilyn to attend Hortense Scheider's School of Dance when she was four years old. Marilyn grew to love dancing; she attended the school and danced in many recitals, initially as a student and eventually as a senior instructor, for almost 20 years. Her and her mother's (and family's) friendship with the Scheider family spanned over 3/4 of a century from the late 1930's and continues between Hortense's daughter Harriet and Marilyn's brother Herb.
Marilyn grew up around antique cars which are her brother's as well as her father's and her nephew's hobby, from the time she had just entered high school. She watched her brother and father restore a number of antique cars including her brother's 1923 and father's 1910 model T Fords and her brother's 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile in the family's one car garage at 135 Summer Avenue in Hillside, the first home her parents ever owned. For many years she was a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) and its New Jersey Region, which her brother, sister-in-law and father helped found and of which her brother served as the first director/leader (now president). She participated in a number of AACA and its New Jersey Region's signature events including a number of AACA Glidden tours in the 1950's as well as a few later ones, most of the first 20 Hershey AACA National Fall Meets from the first one in 1954 through the early '70s as well as the last couple of AACA Fall meets at its predecessor location, the Devon horse show grounds in Devon (a suburb of Philadelphia) in the early 1950's. At the time of her passing, Marilyn was undoubtedly one of less than a few score of remaining attendees of that first Hershey National Fall Meet in 1954, along with her brother Herb, who is surely one of a very small handful who have attended ALL 63 "Hersheys" from 1954 through 2016. She also took part in a number of the early New Jersey Region annual summer tours to locations including Stowe, Vermont and Franconia, New Hampshire.
Frequently on those early Glidden Tours, Marilyn drove the "chase (and luggage) car" behind her brother and sister-in-law, Herb and Margaret Singe, in their 1904 Curved Dash Olds and her mother and father, Lottie Mae and Herb Singe, in their 1910 Ford Torpedo roadster, a car Marilyn would later inherit but would eventually trade to her brother Herb in exchange for an enclosed, heated porch, constructed by her very good friend Bob Kyber, at her beloved home at 2 Masters Square in Hillside. Later, as her mother's health declined, Marilyn would drive her in a modern car along the New Jersey Region's Tour routes, following her brother and his family in his 1911 Palmer Singer 50 HP seven passenger touring or, later, in his 1935 Ford Phaeton and her father in his trusty 1910 Ford Torpedo. She made friends with New Jersey Region members of the 1950's and 60's. One friend that she kept for over half a century was Lillian Kunz Anderson.
Religion also played a large role in Marilyn's life, especially at the beginning and then very much so throughout the middle and later portions of her life. As a child, Marilyn attended Sunday School, as had her brother before her. As a young and early middle-aged adult, she fell away from organized religion and regular church services. But after her mother passed away in the late winter of 1983, Marilyn felt lost and that something was missing from her life. Her beloved sister-in-law, Margaret Singe, had just started regularly attending her family's church of long-standing, the Hillside Presbyterian Church, and was captivated by its recently appointed, charismatic and well-spoken pastor, the Reverend John Vaughn. He revitalized a dormant and dying church and brought life, zeal and energy to it through his preaching, personality and hard work. Margaret suggested to Marilyn that she come to church and hear John speak. Marilyn did so and was immediately enthralled. She quickly became a very active member and ardent supporter of the church, attending adult Bible study and enmeshing herself in every facet of the church enterprise, often tasked with taking tickets at social events and attending virtually all of its activities. She eventually became an elder of the church, as did Margaret, and was responsible, with a select few others, in providing direction to the church for a number of years to come. In addition, she developed a very special friendship with John and his wife June which continued on for almost a decade until John and June left the church and the community for another. She also developed strong friendships with a number of fellow church members including Maryanne Cove and Ginny Skwirut. Eventually the church floundered and Marilyn, Margaret, Maryanne, Ginny and most of the few other remaining members moved to the Townley Presbyterian Church in Union, of which Marilyn remained a member until her disease prevented her from continuing as such.
Fraternally, Marilyn was a life-long (from the age of 21) member of the Order of the Eastern Star, as was her mother. Both her father and her brother were (and her brother still is) a longtime members of the associated fraternal order of Freemasons. During the second half of the 1950's and 1960's, Marilyn was very active in the Eastern Star's Hillside chapter and made many friends through this fraternal organization.
Marilyn attended Hillside Public Schools and upon her graduation from Hillside High School in June, 1952, took the first of only two jobs she would ever have, as a secretary at the Fyr-Fyter company of Newark, New Jersey, a fire extinguisher manufacturer. She very much enjoyed her 24 years there, where she handled a variety of duties and positions, quickly rising to the position of confidential secretary to the Vice President of Sales, Paul Warren, whom she always referred to as "Mr. Warren". Not only was he a true friend and mentor, but he was also one of the most influential people in her life. After over 20 years together, he and Marilyn, along with Fyr-Fyter's chief engineer, were the company's last three employees, staying until the last day, when Fyr-Fyter closed down in 1976. When notified of Marilyn's passing, her spry, classy and still very sharp 97-year-old former boss had only the most positive memories of and effusive praises to say about Marilyn. He summarized his thoughts and feelings about her by simply calling her "the best".
After Fyr-Fyter (closed and) left her, Marilyn was offered a job in very short order by Schering-Plough, the multinational pharmaceutical company, in one of the very first job interviews she took. She would join and then stay with them at offices in Kenilworth, Madison, and Union, NJ for 23 years until her retirement at age 65. Upon being hired, her HR interviewer at Schering remarked to Marilyn that "we just don't get any candidates like you", a true testament to her ability, skill, dependability, reliability, professionalism and overall aptitude in the office environment.
This was reinforced by her rise in the firm's clerical ranks to one of the top administrative positions within the company. Starting in the community relations department under Richard "Dick" Kinney, and proceeding through a couple of other stops, Marilyn finally concluded her working career with almost a decade spent on the firm's executive floor as the executive assistant to the retired chairmen of the board of Schering-Plough, Richard J. Bennett and Willibald H. Conzen. They valued her services very highly and were quite lost when she occasionally had to move down the hall on the executive level in order to "sub in" for the executive assistant to President Robert P. Luciano and then to his successor, Richard J. Kogan, or for the assistants to other senior level executives who were out sick, on vacation or otherwise not in the office.
After her retirement from Schering-Plough in 1999, Marilyn threw herself into the interest that would become the transcendent force for the rest of her life, Maltese dogs. These were introduced to her by her niece, Peggysue, who suggested that Marilyn might watch Peggysue's two Maltese dogs, Tiffany and Schnozz, for a weekend while Peggysue was out of town. Soon thereafter, Marilyn became the proud owner of Abigail, ("Abby"), her first Maltese, whom she acquired with the aid and guidance of her very dear sister-in-law, Margaret Singe, from the leading Maltese breeders, Chrisman Maltese of Stroudsburg, PA, in the mid-1990s. Abby lived with and was lovingly cared for and loved by Marilyn for 15 years. Upon her passing, Cosette, named by Marilyn after her favorite character, the young, orphan heroine in Marilyn's favorite Broadway play, Les Miserables, came into Marilyn's life as a gift from Marilyn's very good friends Chris Vicari and Manny Comicini, partners both in life and in Chrisman Maltese. Other than her mother, Marilyn never loved anyone or anything as much as her very dear Abby and Cosette. They and their breed were her entire life for two decades, beginning just prior to her retirement and continuing until a few years ago, when she became too ill to care for both Cosette and herself.
But beyond loving and caring for her two "girls", Marilyn embraced the entire "Maltese lifestyle". She acquired over 100 Maltese figurines which she proudly displayed, along with numerous prints, photographs and likenesses of the breed, throughout her lovely home in the Westminster section of Hillside. Rarely did she ever set foot outside of her house that she did not wear at least one piece of Maltese inspired clothing such as a T-shirt, blouse, jacket or carry an accessory, purse or bag which showed a representation of her favorite dog breed. Beyond that, she reveled in wearing pieces from her extensive collection of Maltese-inspired jewelry, including necklaces, pins, watches and the like.
You knew Marilyn was a Maltese lover just by looking at her Honda Accord and its replacement, her beloved Subaru Outback by the Maltese sticker that was proudly displayed. And if you were fortunate enough to be on her Christmas card list, you received a customized, full color, photo Christmas card, first of Abigail and then of Cosette, sometimes alone and sometimes with her owner, each holiday season.
But it wasn't just her home decor, clothing, accessories, jewelry and correspondence which were Maltese inspired. Marilyn truly loved and lived the "Maltese lifestyle". She joined clubs and subscribed to magazines that celebrated the breed. She attended Maltese dog shows and conventions across the country, especially the annual NYC Maltese specific show which preceded the venerated Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City each February. Eventually Marilyn acquired ownership shares in Maltese show dogs through Chrisman Maltese, which culminated with her enthusiastic part ownership of the Maltese champion, Janie, who was entered and shown at the Westminster Kennel Club Show by Chrisman earlier this century. One of her proudest moments was seeing Janie compete at the Westminster Show at Madison Square Garden.
Nothing could beat the love and good feelings Marilyn had for Abby, Cosette and their breed, except perhaps for her love and feelings towards her family and the many good friends she made throughout her lifetime. Marilyn was always very close to and adored her mother, Lottie Mae, who doted on and took very special care of Marilyn during her childhood. Marilyn certainly returned that favor when she served as her mother's primary caregiver during her long stretch of cardiological and pulmonary illness beginning in the early 1960s and lasting through her death in the spring of 1983. While continuing to work, first at Fyr-Fyter and then at Schering-Plough, Marilyn would rush home after work to begin an evening of looking after her mother until bedtime. Likewise, weekends were spent attending to her mother's needs while rarely indulging in anything approaching a personal life, other than an occasional night out, perhaps a quick dinner, a movie and occasionally a late evening snack, with a girlfriend, after prepping her mother for the evening.
During this period, one of Marilyn's few daily pleasures was watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which was a favorite of hers. She was occasionally able to attend a taping of the show while it was still based in New York City and was even selected to try to "stump the band" one evening. Unfortunately she failed to do so as the band was able to sing the lyrics to "Fuzzy-Wuzzy"! But she did get to meet and speak with Johnny in person during that segment. She enjoyed watching Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons with her mother. Later on, she came to enjoy watching a number of situation comedies. But nothing could compare to her love for her very favorite TV series of all time, M*A*S*H, to which she was introduced by her nephew, Herb. She would watch episodes of the Korean War dramedy several times each day, as often as it was broadcast on various networks, until she had memorized most of the character's lines. She was truly a "M*A*S*H-a-holic". And towards the end of her life she became a big fan of QVC, frequently watching but never buying any of the advertised products.
Watching TV was an activity, one of many, which she also enjoyed sharing with her cherished companion, Robert "Bob" Kyber, over the last 15 years of his life from the mid-1990s through mid-2011. Bob, who was a very close friend of her brother Herb for over 3/4 of a century, since they were both in the second grade at Hurden Looker school in Hillside in the mid-1930's, knew Marilyn since she was a baby and always held a soft spot in his heart for her, as shown in part, by his lifelong nickname for her, "Cutie". In the 1950s, Bob would marry his sweetheart, Dorothy or "Dot" but always remembered Marilyn and kept in touch on a very limited basis, mostly through her brother, who remained his very good friend and occasional carpentry customer.
A short but proper while after Dorothy's death in 1995, Bob "re-introduced" himself to Marilyn who, by that time was living alone after the death of her father in the late summer of 1991. The two very much hit it off and "kept company", becoming very good friends and each other's most trusted companion. Bob would visit Marilyn one or two evenings during the week for dinner out and to watch TV until it was time to go home and frequently would see her on Sunday afternoon and evening as well, often "double dating" with his friends (and Marilyn's brother and sister-in-law), Herb and Margaret Singe. The two couples also went on a number of trips together, including weekend-long old car tours and some very memorable and well enjoyed Caribbean Island vacations and cruises, where the ladies would share one bedroom and the gentleman another. All four thoroughly enjoyed themselves and always had a memorable time.
Bob and Marilyn also enjoyed a few trips together on antique car weekends, especially to Marilyn's favorite "home away from home", Stowe, Vermont. Marilyn first discovered Stowe in the 1970's and for over three decades made it her "destination vacation", traveling there as often as three times a year but always at least annually, in the spring, summer or especially during the autumn leaf changing season when the trees and forests are at their most beautiful, but never during the winter, in order to avoid the bad weather and snow, which Marilyn often referred to as "white sh*t". Marilyn even subscribed to the Stowe Reporter, the local newspaper to keep in touch with her favorite community. She almost always took these well planned, four day to week long trips with a companion, most often a treasured, also single, girlfriend.
And Marilyn had a number of those friends, including Irma from Florida who worked for and was personal friends with the well-known 1930's - 1950's singer and celebrity, Frances Langford. Marilyn and her parents traveled down to Florida often in the 1960's and 70's to visit with Irma as well as to get a brief respite from the Northeast winter weather, There was also local friend Sig and, of course, Marilyn's longest and closest girlfriend, Joan Salus, with whom Marilyn was best friends with for well over half a century. In her free time, Marilyn would often go out with Joan, Sig or another friend to dinner, often at a Chinese restaurant or take in a movie followed perhaps by a late night snack, just light, casual and fun times together. She also traveled quite extensively with Joan, often to Stowe but ranging as far as the Greek Islands. They made excellent traveling companions and according to Joan, were "well-suited to each other", as hotel roommates and car mates. They each liked many of the same things, traveling and seeing new things, civilized exploring, changing scenery and interesting shops, nice restaurants and interesting and nice people. Of course there were differences too. For instance, Joan was a skier, which Marilyn was certainly not. But they got along very well together, whether for just an evening out together, a six day trip to Stowe or two weeks overseas.
In addition to the antique car trips with her family or Bob, weekend, weeklong or even longer trips, occasionally overseas, with a girlfriend and the two week trips to Florida with her parents, Marilyn traveled to Europe in the 1970's on a few occasions, on bus tours with her brother and sister-in-law and other old car enthusiasts and then with her brother and their parents on a very memorable, two week car trip through Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy.
While Marilyn was never as close to her father (or to anyone else, in fact) as she was to her mother, she did care and cook for him and, of course, lived with both of them until her mother died in late winter, 1983 and her father in late summer, 1991. She was also quite close to her loving brother, Herb, who knew her for all of the almost 83 years she was on this earth. While they occasionally fought, especially while Herb was a teenager and Marilyn a preteen, the relationship was generally quite good for most of its run. Of course, there were the occasional blips, such as when Herb allegedly pushed the teeth down the throat of Marilyn's mama doll. And then there was the time the family acquired a pet parakeet. Everyone wanted to play with the bird at the same time, which, of course, was impossible. So Herb volunteered to create a "bird handling schedule", which had his mother handling the bird from 9 AM – 3 PM, Herb handling it after school, from 3 PM – 9 PM, his father, after work from 9 PM – 3 AM and Marilyn having the bird from 3 AM – 9 AM. When Marilyn heard that, she cried. Needless to say, the schedule was amended! But as adults, Herb and Marilyn got along quite well and Herb was very pleased that Marilyn took such very good care of their mother for such an extended period of time.
When Herb met and then married Margaret, Marilyn found the sister she never had. There was only 4 1/2 years difference between them so they really did form a sisterly bond. And especially after Marilyn's mother died, Margaret became the guiding, older sister. Among other things, Margaret advised Marilyn about dogs and helped her pick out Abigail, for which Marilyn was forever grateful.
In the late 1950's and early 1960's, when Herb and Margaret had children, Marilyn developed a very close and good relationship with her nephew Herb and niece Peggysue. Marilyn and her mother often took one or occasionally both on road trips, for a nice Sunday lunch or to buy little treats or toys. Most Wednesday and Sunday evenings, Marilyn and her parents would eat dinner with her brother Herb and his family. On Wednesday it would be a full, cooked (by Marilyn and Herb's mother), hot dinner at Marilyn's parent's house and on Sunday, cold cuts at Herb and Margaret's house. The families were close, loving and saw each other frequently.
For decades, from the 1950's through the 1990's, the whole family would gather together every Thanksgiving at Marilyn's parent's home for a full turkey dinner cooked first by Marilyn's mother and, when she was no longer able to do so, by Marilyn with help from Margaret. Marilyn and her parents also spent every Christmas Eve and Christmas noon time at Herb and Margaret's house, enjoying there a full Christmas dinner cooked by Margaret and her mother.
When Marilyn's nephew Herb met and married Belinda, Marilyn felt that she gained a second niece. Marilyn welcomed Belinda to her family and always felt fondly towards her. When Herb and Belinda's twins, Herb W. and Heidi were born, Marilyn was thrilled and, for as long as she was able to, loved getting together and interacting with her grand-nephew and grand-niece. It brought her back to when their father, Herb, Marilyn's nephew and their aunt, Peggysue, her niece, were growing up. Her grand-nephew and grand-niece adored Marilyn and were always happy when they saw her.
Marilyn had always been quite healthy but, just under a decade ago, she started to occasionally forget little things. This progressed until this forgetfulness began to impact her life. Six years ago, upon the suggestion of Margaret's close friend, Fleurette Katz, whose husband had been affected by Alzheimer's and had just recently passed away, Marilyn was examined by a gerontologist and diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Medication halted the continued onset of the symptoms, primarily forgetfulness, for a while, but the battle was a losing one.
Within a year, Marilyn's family determined that she needed assistance and set about to find a part-time caregiver. It was at this point that Marilyn met the newest, and in some ways, most important, member of her "family". Through networking, a waitress at a local luncheonette who was also a friend of Herb, Herb, and Margaret's recommended her son's great aunt, Josey de la Paz. Marilyn's nephew Herb and sister-in-law Margaret immediately drove over and interviewed Josey and determined that she was a very friendly, nice lady who appeared capable of doing the job. She was hired on the spot and, boy, were first impressions spot-on in this case. Josey is a very kind and gentle soul who is generally smiling and is very caring and giving. Of course convincing Marilyn that she needed Josey took more than a bit of doing and lots of "sugar". After their first session together, Marilyn called Margaret and was adamant that Josey not come back. Josey persevered and her kindness and wonderful nature soon won Marilyn over, completely. Within a few weeks of when she first met Josey, Marilyn's attitude had completely reversed itself and Josey became the most important person in Marilyn's life at that point, other than her dog, Cosette. A short while later, Marilyn made it perfectly clear that if Josey was not included in family functions, Marilyn would not be attending! This about the woman Marilyn wanted nothing to do with only a few weeks before.
As their friendship and relationship deepened and Marilyn became even more reliant upon Josey, she became almost the daughter that Marilyn never had. In fact, over the next 2 1/2 years, Josie saw Marilyn for 5 to 6 hours every day except during Josey's short visit to Uruguay. While Josie was back in her homeland, Marilyn was not happy. Josey's handpicked replacement was very capable, kind and nice but she was not Josie, and that was just totally unsatisfactory for Marilyn. Only Josey could care for Marilyn, at least in Marilyn's eyes. Unfortunately, Marilyn's disease eventually progressed to the point where she required supervision full-time, 24–7, with a level of care which Josie was unable to provide. It was determined that Marilyn had to enter an assisted living facility and her family selected Canterbury Village in West Orange, NJ. Marilyn's family was very happy with the care this clean, well run, modestly sized and priced facility provided, in the almost 31 months that Marilyn resided there.
Upon Marilyn's entry into Canterbury Village, it was agreed by everyone in the family, including Josey, that she should adopt Cosette and continue as her owner and caregiver, which, in essence, she had already been for the past 2 1/2 years. Cosette now lives with Josey and will continue to do so, God willing, for the rest of her life.
This was the first time in her 80 years that Marilyn ever permanently resided outside the Township of Hillside. While she was initially not in favor of the move, especially since she would have to be separated from her beloved Cosette, Marilyn adjusted to her new surroundings within a few months. Unfortunately her disease probably aided this transition as she stopped asking about her beloved dog, her cherished house and even failed to recognize Josey after a few months. As her disease progressed, her life became little more than existence and her passing on Sunday morning June 4, 2017 was truly a blessing.
Now Marilyn is in heaven with the God she so loved and alongside her beloved mother, her father, the sister-in-law she felt so close to, her cherished companion Bob Kyber, a number of her friends and her beloved Maltese, Abigail. She was a cute, shy and lovely little girl, a fine professional administrative assistant, a God loving, proper, kind and generous Christian woman, a dutiful and loving daughter, beloved and loving sister, aunt and great aunt, a good friend, a dog lover, especially of the Maltese breed, a loving dog owner and was very special to a select few people. She will be missed, just as she was missed over the past few years, due to her condition.
God bless you, Marilyn Singe,
Your loving family and friends