Marilyn M. Levine, 1933-2010

My mother passed away at about 3:00 this afternoon.

She was diagnosed with bladder cancer at about this time last year, and decided that she did not want any kind of treatment for it. Although this is not the course of action either my father or I would have wished, Mom was never the type to let anyone else tell her what to do. She died as she lived, on her own terms.

When we visited Milwaukee before Wiscon, Mom was suffering from an extended bout of stomach flu. During the time I was there she mostly sat and watched TV, while Dad and I talked about quantum physics or what have you. Then, while I was at the convention, she finally went to the doctor and it was determined that the “flu” was actually kidney failure caused by the cancer. She went into hospice at that time, though due to an email snafu I didn’t find out about it until Tuesday morning when we were about to come home from the convention.

We took one extra day in Milwaukee before heading home. Kidney failure isn’t a bad way to die; you just spend more and more time asleep until you simply don’t wake up. Talking with Mom in the hospice was like talking to a toddler who’s up way past her bedtime; she’d exchange a few words and then drift off. She received excellent care and obviously wasn’t feeling anything worse than mild discomfort.

The hospice was a lot more pleasant than visiting Jay or Mark in the hospital, because there was no tension, no worry, no fear that something worse might happen. The worst had already happened and now it was just a matter of managing the end game.

Dad is doing okay. He’s sad, of course, but also relieved. We’ve known for almost a year that this was coming and pretty much how it would go, and we all got to say goodbye. There wasn’t any deathbed drama with relatives or unfinished business. Even the medical bills are all taken care of. He said to me several times “she won,” which at first I thought meant she’d finally won the argument about whether or not to treat the cancer, but after a while I realized that he meant she’d gotten the quiet, pain-free death she’d wanted instead of a long drawn-out agonizing medical battle.

Here’s the obituary he wrote for her:

Marilyn Malka Levine was born on April 11, 1933 to Maurice and Frieda Gordon in Brooklyn New York. She attended public schools in Queens and met the man who was to become her husband in the spring of 1953 in a required dance class at Queens College of the City University of New York. At the end of the semester, at their first date, they decided that their union could be a solid one. One year later, after being graduated on June 9th they married on June 13, 1954 and moved to Syracuse. Marilyn was awarded an informal degree of P. H. T. (Putting Hubby Through) in 1959 and the adventure continued.

She began her first company “The Look-it-up Lady” in 1963 when it was clear that her son David D. was safe to go without diapers. She did manual data searches for clients in these pre-computer days. Her company name changed to “Doctor Levine’s Information Machine” with the award of her Doctorate from UWM’s School of Education. By this time it was becoming clear that Boolean Searches were possible in publicly accessible databases using terminals and the early dial-up data networks. Her company name changed to “Information Express” and remained that for about a decade.

She was convinced that Librarians could be innovators in data searching and offered courses to librarians using the good offices of UWM’s school of Engineering Extension. For several years it was clear that, if a librarian in southeast Wisconsin could generate a Boolean Search, she had learned how to do it by attending one of Marilyn’s classes. With the advent of services like Google, of course, much of that changed.

A strong advocate of free enterprise, Marilyn brought together, in June of 1987, 26 members to a meeting in Milwaukee to form the AIIP (the Association of Independent Information Professionals). She was the group’s first president. The organization has since grown to more than 500 members and is now worldwide.

In 1993 Marilyn sold the rights to the Information Express title to a California company and turned her attention to the field of Art. She opened the Bay View Gallery and ran it for about seven years until her retirement in 2000.

Marilyn holds a patent on a Phonic Keyboard. Intellectual discourse in the family continues. Small talk at home involves questions about the nature of a deity, whether or not there is a difference between god and nature, how much energy is required to actually store a singe “bit” of information and what, if anything, occurs in the universe when a new idea is created or the last copy of an old idea is destroyed.

Marilyn will be missed. She is survived by her husband Leonard just a few days short of 56 years of marriage and her son David.

I know that she was very proud of me.

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