By Robyn

“You will all carry on the beautiful traditions started long ago by many women, but now are developing new ways to reach our wonderful neighbors from other countries”. This was the last message I received from Marilyn, as she reflected on her 50+ years in International Neighbors.

Marilyn Maaseidvaag (*)

Two months later, Marilyn passed away on July 17, 2021, aged 91, much beloved and surrounded by her family. She was Ann Arbor born and bred, marrying her Norwegian husband Frode at Zion Lutheran Church, the same place we have our International Day meetings. Raising her young children, Marilyn soon became an important part of the new International Neighbors organization. She was instrumental in building our organization over the years, welcoming hundreds of guests from sixty countries and inspiring others to do the same. One Tea Group hostess said “I loved Marilyn’s leadership style, so welcoming, so gracious, so hospitable, and if she is still leading, please count me in”.

IN 60th Anniversary celebration

It was wonderful that Marilyn came to cut the cake with other Founding Mothers at our 60th Anniversary celebration. (Photo (2)) She was not one to pose for a photo. Modest to the core, she liked to say she had “done all the jobs” at International Neighbors, including leading us as President.

Marilyn always had a special place in her heart for young international mothers. This iconic historical photo (Photo (3)) from The Ann Arbor News shows Marilyn helping a new mother make choices at the furniture exchange we once had. The last time I saw Marilyn was in the Nursery on International Day. She had heard we were shorthanded, and, at age 89 came to help with the babies and toddlers so their mothers could enjoy the program.

Marilyn helps a young mother

With her deep roots in the community, Marilyn was a key contributor to our guidebook Living in Ann Arbor. Ever practical, she wrote nuts and bolts sections like “Housekeeping” showing newcomers how to start up their electricity, how to recycle, and how to use baking soda as a non-toxic cleaner.

Marilyn was the long-time leader of the popular Sassafras Tea Group, and would sometimes invite a guest to join her group if she looked lonely sitting by herself on International Day. Her hospitable hostesses stayed with her through the years, well into their 80s, welcoming each year a new group of young guests. Marilyn wryly said, “I’m focusing on the guests taking a lot of responsibility this year (the 50 years age difference factor).” The guests did step up to help, and Marilyn was delighted when the Tea Group bonded and decided they wanted their own online cookbook to represent their different cultures. Thanks to new guest Ega Dion Putri from Indonesia it actually happened. The Tea Group retired in 2015 but came back to show their cookbook and sample their recipes at our Annual Tea Party.

In recent years, Marilyn spent more time away from Ann Arbor, often at her house near Lake Michigan where she and Frode sailed. She would join old friends at special International Neighbors events, like the Annual Tea Party (photo 4)  and it was always wonderful to see her.

Founding Mother’s Table at Tea Party

Kind friends have made donations to International Neighbors in Marilyn’s memory. With it came notes that told how she inspired them to get involved with IN, that she was a dear friend, and always thoughtful, kind, and fun. Thank you to everyone. We miss Marilyn and will find a special way to honor her legacy.

(*) Photo courtesy of Tom Wolken