Marilyn Joan Morris passed away on September 21, 2021 at age 67 amid complications following heart surgery. A relentlessly caring, irrepressibly funny, endlessly creative gardener, landscape designer, advocate, singer, thinker, activist, cook, craftswoman, explorer, daughter, sister, wife, aunt, and mother, Marilyn leaves an immense presence in the hearts of the many people who know and love her. Born to the late Mathew and Emily (Gatzke) Morris on May 1, 1954, in Evanston, Illinois, Marilyn spent her early life in the Chicago suburb of Glenview. She survived a bout of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 19 to live a vibrant and wonderful life. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in botany and her Master’s degree in entomology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before working at the Illinois Natural History Survey studying wetlands. After she married Californian biologist Lawrence (Larry) LaPr‚, the pair moved to Riverside, CA and raised their son Nathan Morris LaPr‚. Marilyn worked in the Children’s Room of the downtown Riverside Public Library, organizing countless public arts, crafts, and cultural events. A lifelong advocate of sustainable landscapes and gardening, Marilyn organized community gardening efforts and events, volunteered garden designs, practiced and taught home gardening, and held annual neighborhood plant sales. She was a founder and designer of the Tequesquite Community Garden. She launched her business – Morris Landscape Design – through which she transformed many yards into beautiful and water-efficient landscapes. A true daughter of the Midwest, Marilyn celebrated her roots and renewed long-term friendships with annual trips back to Illinois and Minnesota. In recent years, she and Larry enjoyed their second home overlooking Lake Superior and roamed northeastern Minnesota by car, foot, and canoe. Marilyn’s intellect, talent, and compassion are evident in her many interests, convictions, and deep friendships. A long-time vegetarian and naturalist, she was fiercely committed to sustainable living and spent much of her time exploring the natural world. To walk with Marilyn through a field of flowers was to learn the name of every passing plant. A voracious reader, Jeopardy! fan, musician, yoga enthusiast, apple picker, baker, and artist, Marilyn managed to fit more activity into her life than most. Consistently warm-hearted and unfailingly witty, she cultivated friends everywhere she went. Her irreplaceable joviality and kindness leave indelible marks in the memories of her friends and loved ones. Marilyn is survived by her husband Larry, her son Nathan, her sister Kathleen Hodges, many other relatives, and her dog Lola. Marilyn’s family is planning celebrations of life tentatively to be held in Riverside and the Midwest next spring on dates near her birthday.
Published by The Press-Enterprise on Oct. 7, 2021.