Marilyn “Willy” Black

Published: 2/25/2018 3:00:20 AM
Modified: 2/25/2018 3:00:21 AM

Hanover, N.H. — Marilyn “Willy” Black was born on Thursday, 15 Nov. 1930 in State College, Pa. to C.O. Williams and Ruth V. Williams.  She passed away on 20 Feb. 2018 in Hanover.  She was educated at Penn State, where she received a BS and MS in Recreation Education. Her first job out of college was as an Instructor in Physical Education at the University of New Hampshire. She remembered this as “the luckiest thing she that ever happened to her” because it allowed her to fall in love with New Hampshire.

In 1953 she married George Black, with the proviso that the couple make New Hampshire their home. They both taught at Cardigan Mountain School, and in 1959 they moved to Concord and started a family: daughters Heather born in 1960 and Holle born in 1962. 

In 1965 Willy became Director at Camp Farnsworth in Thetford, a position she would hold until 1969. She was an active member in the Swift Water Girl Scout Council and was presented with the “Citizen of Distinction” award by the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains in 2016.

The family moved to Hanover in 1968.  Her Hanover teaching career started in the Ray School kindergarten classroom before becoming the Art teacher. As part of the US Bicentennial celebration Willy had students, aided by many volunteers, build the “Colonial House”, a replica eighteenth century house, where the kids learned how things were done by doing those things themselves. “Willy did child-centered experiential learning before it was cool. She just hauled off and did stuff and made her school an interesting place” said a former student.

A few of her fellow teachers at the Ray School nominated her for the 1978 State Teacher of the Year and she only found out when they told her she won. She went on to win the National Teacher of the Year award 1979. The award was presented by President Jimmy Carter at the White House. In June of 1980, Willy also received an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth College. President John Kemeny read from her citation: “For her loving and tireless efforts on behalf of our children and our community,” he said, “since your arrival in Hanover neither the school system nor the town has been the same.”

Willy also served on the Hanover Conservation Commission, the Hanover Parks and Recreation Board, the Howe Library Board of Trustees, the Hanover Recycling Committee, the Senior Center Advisory Board, the Hanover Water Works Board, and the Hanover Improvement Society.  In 1985 Willy was elected to the Hanover Board of Selectmen – a position she held for 21 years, 6 years as the Board Chair.  In 1994 the Hanover Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Year.

Willy also served on the Board of the Upper Valley public access channel, CATV, for many years.  She was a Board member and served as President of the Upper Valley Haven and was a member of the New Hampshire Municipal Association Board for 9 years, serving as its Vice President and President. NHMA named her their Outstanding Municipal Volunteer in 2003, in recognition of all she had done to foster community in New Hampshire.

When Willy was not busy volunteering her time to her community, one could find her playing either the trombone, baritone or bassoon for the Upper Valley Community Band, the Lyme Town Band, the Newmont Military Band, the Dartmouth Wind Symphony, the Vermont Philharmonic or in the orchestra pit for an innumerable number of local theatre productions.  She was a 25 year member of the Bach Study Group.

And then there was Willy’s chainsaw carving hobby.  From Hanover’s now famous Pig and Wolf to a myriad of people, small, and not-so-small creatures….anything but bears…Willy’s carvings grace many a front yard, porch and mantle.  Electric chainsaw in hand, Willy could often be found in her driveway, turning wood blocks into whimsical creations.  She was also known to produce ice carvings at Hanover’s annual Pond Party.

Willy is survived by her sister Beverly Rhoades, daughters Heather Landrey and Holle Black, and by grandchildren Gabrielle, Benjamin, Nicholas, Alexander, Flint, Jeremiah, Timothy, Eli, and Thomas.

There will be a Willy Big ice cream social in celebration of her life on April 1 at the Richard W. Black Community Center at 5:30 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite local charity.  



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