Marilyn Grace Ann Johnson Deitsch

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Honored by Ellen Deitsch Durnin, her daughter

My mother was the fourth of seven children born into a Swedish/Irish family in the Bronx, New York. She was raised in a strict but loving home where hospitality and caring for others were valued above all. The Johnsons didn’t have much, and Grandpa’s career was interrupted by some ill-advised investments (such as Freedomland, NY). However, generosity of spirit was inculcated into the children from an early age, and new faces appeared regularly at the Sunday dinner table, with Grandpa telling his wife, “Mae, meet my good friend...What’s your name again?” Grandpa believed that no one should be hungry or alone, and frequently admonished his children “FHB” (family hold back) until he was sure that there was enough food for the guests to enjoy.

My mom continued this tradition; she and my dad hosted annual clambakes at our house attended by family and friends. Her door was always open to neighbors, and she raised my brother and me to be open-minded and accepting of those who are different from us. She was a leader in our community, holding offices in neighborhood associations, Parent Teacher Associations, overseeing book fairs, serving as Girl Scout cookie mom, and providing a loving and supportive environment that allowed my dad, brother and me to follow our passions. When she re-entered the work force, she served as a role model for me, as an example of how a woman can “do it all” with grace.

Today my mom is about to celebrate her 80th birthday, and she has four loving grandchildren who call and visit her regularly.  She is always up for a card game, dances up a storm with anyone who will try to follow her lead, and is the best listener one could ask for. News and special events do not become real for me until I share them with her. I am pleased to be able to honor my mom, Marilyn Deitsch, with a rose in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Rose Garden.