Alice Marilyn Althoff, loving wife, protecting mother, adoring grandmother, doting great-grandmother, and compassionate friend, age 82, passed away peacefully on May 28th, 2012, surrounded by her loving family.
She was born March 9, 1930, in Mt. Vernon, Iowa to Walter Ballou and Esther Sophia Gray; she was the older of two children. With a happy childhood filled with love, she graduated from Mt. Vernon High School. Kind, beautiful and fun, her infectious personality made the world a better place and helped to shed light on everyone she met.
While attending Millikin University, Marilyn met Jerry, her Prince Charming. While not love at first sight, she knew through the persistence of his courtship, she would have his undying love. Her strength would be his rock for the next 60 years. They married in St. Patrick's Catholic Church on February 14, 1953.
The Mother of seven headstrong children, being a mother was central to Marilyn's life. She was a constant example of Christ, especially evident in the nurturing of her family. Always a teacher, Marilyn taught her children that life is all about choices. Marilyn humbly made the right choices. Marilyn always chose kindness, tenderness and selflessness. If you knew Marilyn, you have felt her Savior's love. She never said an unkind word about anyone and loved others the way Jesus asked us to love-unconditionally and without reserve.
Marilyn chose to have seven children. They were born to a mother who cherished them and their differences, a mother who was constant in her love, guidance and example. All of her children know secretly that they are "their mother's favorite". Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren also felt and will always feel her never-ending love and presence. She spent every moment she could with them, cuddling, kissing and rocking them with tenderness only she could. Her home was always open and everyone felt welcomed and known by her.
She was a friend and mother to all who needed her grace. Marilyn chose lifelong learning and had an amazing mind. She graduated from Millikin with her Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and used it every day in raising…and chasing her 7 children. With a focus in Modern Dance, she could illuminate the dance floor with a grace and presence like no other. All of her children remember the beauty and elegance with which she would captivate every eye.
She read voraciously as well as played, and graciously lost, at Old Maid to her grandchildren…each and every one. To all of her children and grandchildren, she was a master of the English language, complex geometry and chemistry, an accomplished tailor, 5-star chef and unrivaled clothing designer. She sewed each button and patch with a steady thread of love and baked each batch of pumpkin bars and every chocolate layer cake with the warmth of a heart that would move Heaven and Earth for those in need. She architected the design of what a peaceful, stable and loving home should be, and she and Jerry built it - all for her children.
Marilyn chose music as yet another talent and love. She played the piano with the aplomb of Mozart, sang with incredible aptitude and found great joy in the beauty and serenity of song. Without pressure, and without them knowing, she instilled a love of music in her children, and was happiest when their creative and independent spirit would shine. She shared her talent by happily singing with the PEO Singers and ensembles throughout her life. There was always music playing in her head, if not in her home. If you asked her what song she was humming, she would name the song and composer and even hum you a few more lines if you needed it. Heaven's choir will be richer with the addition of her beautiful voice.
Marilyn happily chose to serve; spending her days in constant service of her friends and others in need. She was a proud and faithful member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. She magnified her every calling, serving as PEO President, receiving her 60 year honoree pin in 2009, President of her church guild, member of the PEO singers, and in a myriad of auxiliary positions whenever and wherever her love and caring was needed.
She has spent years singing, offering peace and serenity through music. Marilyn chose to follow Jerry to the distant corners of the earth. Wherever he was, running water or not, heat or no heat, grass or no grass, Marilyn was by his side, making every stop a home. She chose to be humble…she chose to be loving…she chose to be charitable and her children watched and learned. They know where to turn for peace because they watched their mother find it in family and Christ.
We choose now to honor her legacy by being happy, ever-serving and faithful. She never wrote a book, but she never stopped teaching. Her influence was from her heart and from her spirit. Her kind ways and hospitality were legendary. Even as her body became thin and frail from the ravages of cancer, she ran her household like a queen.
This beautiful, graceful and infinitely strong woman from Mt. Vernon, Iowa did not become a movie star or an opera singer or a model. She became her best. She became her best at giving, at loving, at serving, at kindness, at compassion, at living. She became her best for God, her Savior, friend and Lord of her world. She became her best for her husband, her family, her friends and all of those in need. If you knew her, you are a better person because of it…if you didn't, I'm so sad for you; she would have loved you with a passion and zest that could chase away the rain!
Marilyn is survived by her adoring husband Gerald Henry Althoff, her seven children: Gary (Reggie) Althoff, Anne (Steven) Plotz, Barbara (Jim) Bone, Linda (Al) Bowman, Mark (Teresa) Althoff, Lisa (Ian) Symmonds and David Althoff, as well as and 19 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren…with one more little angel she'll see and give some advice before sending her on her way down to her new parents. She is also survived by her loving brother Richard (Rita) Gray.
Obituary credit: Decatur Herald & Review on June 1, 2012