Marion J. Pride

Sep 01, 2017
Marion Pride

Belfast — Marion Josephine Pride, née Caster, beloved “Great Lady of Belfast,” died Aug. 21, 2017, at her home at the Tall Pines Residence. She was 96. Over the course of her life and across the span of her 24 moves to different places and homes, Marion was open to the world and to everyone she met. She was guided by her principles that there are more likenesses and similarities between any two people than there are differences, and that everyone is deserving of kindness.

Born in Providence, R.I., to proud Swedish-Americans, Melvin Martin Caster and Anna Josephine Osterlund Caster, Marion was the eldest of five children, siblings whom she adored. At an early age, Marion loved riding with her dad on his Hendersen motorcycles, even in the sidecars, and in her girlhood she was a presence in her father’s cycle business helping him to run the shop. These experiences led her to enroll at Bryant College of Business Administration, where she honed her now-famous organizational skills and “make it work” attitude.

She became an avid cyclist and relished her memories of the long-distance bike trips of her youth. In these same years, Marion cultivated numerous lifelong interests, a love of history, a delight in classical music (she was an ardent Boston Pops fan) and art history, and a passion for ambitious sewing projects. Marion personified the best values of her generation and of her ambitious first-generation immigrant parents. At an early age, she worked multiple jobs to help support her family during the Depression; she ran the family business while her father was ill and during World War II when her brothers were in the service; she made sacrifices for family members so that they all could realize their dreams.

In 1947, Marion married her dearest, her partner-in-life, Fleetwood Pride Jr., thereby launching herself beyond her home in Providence, to Maine, and to a life around the U.S. and Europe when Fleet became a commissioned officer and pilot in the Air Force. Marion enthusiastically threw herself into life as a military spouse, and quasi “American Ambassador.” Her “military career” brought her to Alaska during the Korean War, to West Germany during the post-war U.S. military occupation, to California during the early years of the Vietnam War, to Washington, D.C., during the tumultuous ‘60s and the rise of the Great Society, to Germany again during the height of the Cold War -- and to many and varied stations in between.

In all of these postings, she was a model of resilience, adaptability and diplomacy. She raised a family of six children under diverse and sometimes trying conditions. She waited out high alerts alone with her children as world events took her husband, Fleet, away. She single-handedly held down the fort while he was gone for deployments, training, schooling and when he served in the Vietnam War, twice.

During these years as an Air Force wife, Marion consciously engaged with the world around her, often with remarkable prescience, building up a great store of charitable works and a far-flung network of enduring friendships. Marion was an on-the-ground early supporter of civil rights during her life in segregated Alabama, and again later in Washington, D.C. She spent hundreds of hours working on behalf of the Poor People's Campaign and the March on Washington.

With a physician and other volunteers, Marion helped open and operate a methadone clinic -- this in the 1960s. She was an early literacy volunteer, a Head Start volunteer, to say nothing of her work for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Sunday Schools and Methodist women’s organizations.

In her overseas postings, she applied her brand of American hospitality in her efforts to organize and sustain German-American associations and friendships, and successfully bridged lingering divides between Germans and Americans with her earnest charm and warmth. She served as president of German-American clubs for numerous years in two different overseas postings.

Marion was equally at home with diplomats and mayors as with local working people. She was an arbiter of taste, grounded in Emily Post, could set an elegant table for six or 24, throw a Fasching (German Mardi Gras) party for 100, or drop everything to serve an unexpected guest a cup of coffee.

And, during these exciting years, she was a loving, committed, fun -- and at times, exacting -- mom of six. Marion carried forward the aspirations and dreams of her parents to her own role as a parent, and to her expectations for her children. She had hopes that each of her children would give back to the world according to his or her talents, and she did her part to support them all. She signed her six kids up for everything, and was often the Scout mother, or adult adviser, while also driving them everywhere, in all conditions. She dubbed her little orange Opel station wagon her “freedom car,” because she could “zip around and fit everyone in it.”

It was in Belfast that Marion spent her last happy, deeply fulfilling years. It was the longest “posting” she had ever had, lasting from 1979 when she and Fleet retired from the Air Force, to 2017. Over the course of these 38 years, a great reciprocity of affection and love grew between Marion and the community of Belfast. With Fleet, she continued her life of charitable work, for her notably at the Waldo County Hospital Aid, the Belfast United Methodist Church, and, remarkably, with Meals on Wheels until she was 90 years old.

Marion played many parts in Belfast’s organizations, as president, parliamentarian, secretary, mediator, advocate, mentor, but she valued most highly her role as a loyal friend. Indeed, as daughter, sister, student, colleague, wife, mother of many, loyal friend and great lady of Belfast, Marion consistently put others first, and modestly avoided the limelight and reward. At her core, Marion believed in the goodness of her fellows and in the power of kindness. Day in and day out, Marion lived those beliefs with grace to the very end of her life.

Her revered parents, cherished siblings Mildred Anderson, Ernest Caster, Kenneth Caster, Phyllis Morgan and her beloved husband, Fleet, predeceased Marion. She is survived by her loving children Fleetwood M. Pride and partner Marilyn Larson, Ernest Pride and wife Martha, Kenneth Pride and wife Mary Beth Davis Pride, Marilyn Chapman and husband Geoff, Laurel Buchmiller and husband Gordon, Joanne Ritchie and husband Ian; cousin Alvin Pease and wife Anita; “adopted son” Michael Vollert and wife Doris; as well as the great loves of her life,  her grandchildren; and nieces, nephews, great-nieces and -nephews; and great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to: Meals on Wheels 18 Mirriam Road, Belfast, ME 04915 or Waldo County Hospital Aid, 118 Northport Ave., Belfast, ME 04915 or Belfast United Methodist Church, 23 Mill Lane, Belfast, ME 04915

A memorial service followed by a reception will be held Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. at the Belfast United Methodist Church Church, 23 Mill Lane, Belfast, with the Rev. Jinwoo Chun officiating.

Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at Arrangements are with Long Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Camden.

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