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The very sad news of Marilyn Strong's death

Wife of Steven Strong and VP of Solar Design Associates

by Alex Wilson

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Marilyn Strong of Solar Design Associates, with husband Steven
Marilyn Strong, Steven Strong’s wife, passed away Tuesday evening (June 23rd) at U Mass Memorial Medical Center from heart failure.
I first got to know Marilyn and Steven when I arrived at NESEA as executive director in 1980. The organization, then the New England Solar Energy Association, was based in Brattleboro, Vermont, but I regularly drove into Boston for meetings, and I usually stayed with Steven and Marilyn, and their young son Hunter, in Lincoln, MA, where they were living at the time.
In 1983 or 84, a group of us from NESEA, including Marilyn, rode on a 600-mile solar energy "bike-a-thon" from Harrisburg, PA to a national Passive Solar Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, camping along the way. (This was a joint fundraiser for NESEA and the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Association--with which NESEA later merged.) It was wonderful to get to know Marilyn in that context, and we maintained a close friendship ever since.
Much more recently, Steven and Marilyn, along with my wife and I and two other couples, searched together for the right property in Vermont to create a small cohousing community. While we ended up not finding the right spot and we all moved ahead with our own projects, that process brought us back together, and we enjoyed many stories about the early years of Steven's and Marilyn's involvement in solar.
The two of them ended up buying a farm in Tunbridge, Vermont, and have been working for the past three years in creating their dream retirement home. It is so sad to realize that their dream of retiring together in Vermont will not be realized.

Steven Strong of Solar Design Associates

Robert Erb, one of the earliest employees at Solar Design Associates with Steven and Marilyn, asked me to share with the NESEA community the news about Marilyn's passing. In keeping with Marilyn's wishes, there will be no wake or funeral, but a celebration of her life will be scheduled when the time is right. Steven told Robert that he would prefer not to be contacted for a little while, so that he and family can grieve in private.
Steven has done so much over the past 40 years, not only for the NESEA community, but for the renewable energy movement nationally and internationally. With Marilyn at his side, he has been the leading pioneer in transitioning photovoltaics "from research to reality" (the title of a 1983 NESEA conference at MIT that Steven co-chaired). I know that he will need all of our support as he struggles to come to grips with this sudden tragedy.
We will miss you, Marilyn.

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Alex Wilson served as executive director of NESEA from 1980 to 1985 and then served two terms on the Board of Directors. After leaving his position at NESEA, he founded BuildingGreen, Inc., the Brattleboro-based publisher (since 1992) of Environmental Building News, the nation's oldest and most respected publication on green building. In 2012 he launched the nonprofit Resilient Design Institute.

Alex Wilson's picture
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Clown noses, wildflowers, wishbones, backbones and funnybones . . . a few thoughts on the July 18, 2015 celebration of Marilyn Heller Stong's life

I had the honor of attending a celebration of Marilyn's life last weekend at the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard, MA. The Healing Garden was a fitting place to celebrate Marilyn, as she spent countless hours tending to the garden and walking through it with hospice patients, comforting them and helping them make their own peace with life and death. As is often the case with services like this, the celebration made me wish I had known Marilyn better. It seems to me that hers was a life well-lived.

Her niece, Ariel Carter, recalled a quote from Reba McEntire that Marilyn shared with her once in an email - perhaps the only thing Marilyn and Reba shared in common. The quote went something like this, "To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone." Clearly, Marilyn had all three in abundance.

To honor Marilyn's generosity, Ariel shared packets of wildflower seeds with those in attendance, encouraging them to plant them and think of Marilyn as they begin to bloom. To honor her "funnybone," as it were, her "niece-y," Katherine Hughes, supplied clown noses, so that others could share Marilyn's love for clowning, and desire to make people laugh.

The program for the service contained a lovely poem by Marilyn, which I've transcribed below:


Sparrows fold, enclose their wings,

Nestling thoughts sure evening brings,

Lullabies hummed deep within

Remind the lily all is one.

Mushrooms bow their heads to prayer

Chapeled by the hemlocks there.

Gliding, sweeping clouds in flight;

Tender touch the still of night.

Fairy feathers slowly sweep

Nature puts her dreams to rest,

Safe within a tranquil breast.

-- Marilyn Heller Strong

We will miss you, Marilyn. We're grateful for the mark you've made on our community and our world.


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