Marlene Epstein Halperin died on Sunday, September 15, 2019, a month shy of her 88th birthday. She was born on October 22, 1931 in Stamford, Connecticut, daughter of Abraham and Ruth (Wool) Epstein and soon elder sister of Doris, Rhea, and Robert (“Bobby”). She loved small town life and excelled in school, completing an undergraduate degree in child development and sociology at the University of Connecticut. She spent the 1952-53 school year in the young state of Israel at an institute for Jewish youth leaders from all over the world. There she forged life-long friendships and met the love of her life, Samuel Halperin, an idealistic and ambitious youth from Chicago. They completed their undergraduate studies after returning to the States and were married in 1954. Samuel and Marlene pursued graduate degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, where Marlene earned her master’s degree in social work. Their son, Elan, was born in 1955 in St. Louis, and daughter Deena in 1958 in Detroit, where Sam continued his doctoral studies in Political Science. In 1961 the family moved to Washington, DC, where their careers, children and lives would flourish for the next half century.
Marlene’s career in the Washington DC area began as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the famed psychiatric hospital, Chestnut Lodge. She later joined the Group Therapy Center in Washington as a family therapist, and then launched her own private practice, which thrived for the next four decades. She was immensely proud of her work, and fiercely invested in the wellness of her many patients over the span of her career.
Marlene was a person of confident and strongly held opinions. She listened without judging, offered feedback without criticizing, shared wisdom without imposing, and loved without condition. Marlene could talk to anybody—strangers in supermarket lines, elevators, waiting rooms—but was not impressed with power or celebrity. She was often irreverent, but never disrespectful. She could—and often did—say outrageous things and get away with them in ways that could embarrass her children and grandchildren, yet also inspire us to be more authentic and straightforward.
Marlene’s wisest counsel was colorful and creative. “You are entitled to your life,” she would say, and exhorted us all to “live a technicolor life.” Among the greatest of her signature “Marlene-isms” was “Keep breathing and do the next thing”—sage advice that applies to most any of life’s challenges and dilemmas. Her patients once wrote her a poetic tribute which included these lines:
“That we are each special she firmly believes
so she moves us to reach, to strive, to achieve.
When, of self-esteem we suffer a dearth
she shows us the way to discover our worth.
She pushes and nudges and patiently guides us
til we bring to world the best that’s inside us.”
Marlene had this kind of impact on every person she loved—family, friends, and patients.
Elan and wife Barbara Brynelson, and their children Daniel, Ari and Talia, as well as Deena, her husband Bob King, and her children Gilad and Maya, eventually all settled in proximity to Sam and Marlene’s Washington, DC home. Grandma and Saba were enthusiastic, attentive grandparents who celebrated and encouraged each grandchild’s unique talents, interests and aspirations. Those decades were largely healthy and productive, with Marlene and Sam each thriving personally and professionally. Family celebrations were animated, lively reminders of our great good fortune to live in the light and shelter of Marlene and Samuel Halperin. Even as grandchildren grew up and moved on to college and careers, Marlene and Sam remained the roots and wings of the Halperin family.
Marlene was predeceased by her husband Samuel, son Elan, and sister Rhea, and recently joined in death by brother Bobby. She is survived by her sister Doris, daughter Deena, son-in-law Bob King, daughter-in-law Barbara Brynelson, seven grandchildren, their spouses and partners, one great-grandchild, five nieces and nephews, twelve great nieces and nephews, and countless friends she cherished wholeheartedly.
Those who knew and loved Marlene will remember her as a warm and vibrant life force, a wise and intuitive healer, a fierce friend and ally, and above all, a wellspring of love and loyalty that made her presence a safe place to land. May her memory be a blessing.
“Keep breathing, Beloved Marlene, and do the next thing.”