Marion D. Miller

Marion D. Miller

Marion Dunham Miller of Eureka, Calif., died peacefully on May 26, 2020, after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 67, and surrounded by family at her temporary home in San Francisco.

Marion was a force of nature with a zest for life in all of its aspects. She had a keen intellect, a strong sense of justice, a wry perceptive humor and above all an endless love for her family and friends. Marion was a defense attorney, environmentalist, world traveler, and a radiant friend. She left us before her time and will be dearly missed.

Marion was born on Oct. 22, 1952, in San Francisco, Calif., the fourth of five daughters to Clem and Katy Miller. In 1958 Clem was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing California’s 1st District, which ran from Marin to the Oregon border. The family subsequently moved to Washington, D.C., where Marion attended school from the first grade and onwards.

Four years later Clem tragically died in a plane crash while campaigning for his third term, just weeks after the passage of a bill he had authored to create the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Afterwards, Katy worked with the Save Our Seashore campaign to complete the effort to protect Pt. Reyes.

In 1965, Katy married Stuart Johnson and Marion gained another sister and three step-siblings.

As a young woman, Marion attended Bar 717 Ranch Camp near Hyampom. This began an enduring connection to what she would call home, Hyampom. In 1970, she first met her future husband Jack Freeman while they both were working at the camp. Around that time, Marion and two of her sisters bought a nearby homestead.

A couple of years later Marion and Jack found their way back to each other and started their extraordinary partnership. Jack is an architect and together they collaborated on many projects. They lived an off-the-grid lifestyle together on the homestead which would become a lifelong refuge and source of joy for the family. They devoted much of their extra time and resources to their place in Hyampom. Marion’s prodigious powers of entertaining and nurturing were kept in full play, and the house was the site of countless parties and gatherings.

Marion grew up on both coasts and was as equally at home in the woods of California as on the streets of Manhattan. She was an avid traveler and a natural with languages. As a high schooler she visited Norway where she gained a love for the culture of Scandinavia.

Marion and Jack loved to travel together and Marion expertly researched every destination to find the hidden gems. One trip that stands out was the year that they spent in the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø in 1977. Jack worked as a carpenter while Marion studied philosophy at the University of Tromsø and mastered the language.

In 1976 Marion and Jack moved to the outskirts of Eureka. Their daughter, Leah, was born in 1980, followed by their son, Clem, in 1984. For Marion motherhood was beyond joyful. Both children were born at home and she made baby food from fresh fruit and veggies that she grew in her garden.

From her parent’s activism, Marion inherited a lifelong passion for the environment. She worked against spraying and clear cutting in our national forests and became interested in the law. After she got a history degree from Humboldt State University, the whole family moved to Albany, Calif., in 1987 so she could attend UC Berkeley Law School. After graduation in 1991, the family moved back to Eureka where Marion started her career as a criminal defense attorney. She worked as a Humboldt County public defender and later opened her own practice. She was a fierce advocate for the underserved and strongly believed in everyone’s right to a proper defense. Marion was well known in the local legal community and worked up until illness forced her retirement.

Marion simply cherished her relationships. She was elated to welcome Leah’s fiance, Zouhaier,  into the family as she had welcomed so many friends and family into the fold over the years. She was a people person with a special combination of honesty and loyalty that made her someone that you could count on. So many people loved her and she loved them back. She was proud beyond words of Jack, Leah, and Clem, and to them she will always remain the heartbeat of the family.

Marion is survived by her beloved husband of 48 years Jack Freeman; her daughter Leah Miller-Freeman and fiancé Zouhaier, son Clem Freeman; her sisters Amey Miller (David), Abby Miller (Marc), Clare Watsky (Paul), Cercie Miller (Michael), Eunice Panetta (Jay); and step-siblings Stuart, Tom, and Willow Johnson. She is also survived by seven loving brothers and sisters-in-law on the Freeman side, as well as many more nieces, nephews, cousins and friends that are too numerous to list.

Services have been postponed due to COVID-19. To be notified when they occur, email marionmillermemorial@gmail.com.

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