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For 22 years, Marilyn Stedman brought light to The Fig Tree family

Marilyn Stedman

Marilyn Stedman, a volunteer with The Fig Tree since 1996, died on Monday, May 28, at the age of 89. 

One line in her obituary sums up Marilyn:  It said that her “life was full of activities that blessed others.”

As a volunteer, Marilyn Stedman said that her involvement with The Fig Tree Board has been the “backbone of everything I’ve done.”

That includes the Girl Scouts, Japanese Cultural Center, YWCA, Museum of Arts and Culture, Whitworth Auxiliary, Covenant Christian Church, Junior League and reading to preschoolers.

“The Fig Tree represents an ecumenical vision,” she said in a 2014 interview at the time of the 30th anniversary.

Marilyn said that “The Fig Tree has always been positive and I’ve always tried to be positive in my life.  It has helped me and I hope it helps others.

Marilyn joined The Fig Tree board in 1996 and became chair/moderator of the board during its transition to becoming an independent nonprofit corporation in 2001 and for many more years.

Last month, she picked up copies of The Fig Tree to deliver to Origin, her church, and Unity Church near her home.

She has helped with mailings, deliveries, editing, hosting benefit tables, planning benefit events, doing volunteer tasks at events, making phone calls, assisting at displays and spreading the word about The Fig Tree.

She has spent almost all of her years in Spokane, graduating from Lewis & Clark High School and attending Washington State College in Pullman for three years.  She met her husband, Dale, there.  She had majored in recreation with the goal of being a professional Girl Scout.  Dale worked with AAA in Spokane, giving her the freedom to volunteer with Girl Scouts.

Her involvement with Girl Scouts led to connection with Mukogawa’s Girl Day and the doll festival, Hinamatsuri.  For many years, she volunteered with the Japanese Cultural Center, putting out friendship dolls during March.

Most Japanese girls receive traditional dolls from their mothers or grandmothers on their first Hinamatsuri, a 1,000-year-old tradition. At Mukogawa, Girl Scouts help put out the girl dolls.

Marilyn became involved with Girl Scouts at the age of nine, because of her love of the outdoors and because her father, a member of Lions Club that supported Girl Scouts, had helped buy land where the Girl Scout Camp Four Echoes is near Worley, Idaho.

“I loved the camp and was there the first day.  My mother was a Girl Scout leader.  I was a camp counselor and assistant director.  I have led troops for my daughter, Cyn, and granddaughter.”

Marilyn also helped start the day camp program with Spokane Parks and Recreation in the woods at Valleyford County Park before she served as president of the Council.

“Girl Scouts, like The Fig Tree, has international ties.  We have four international houses—London, Switzerland, Mexico and India,” said Marilyn, who visited all but the one in India. 

She has traveled internationally with Dale, when he served on the National AAA Board, going to Holland, Greece, Italy, Estonia, Russia, Rwanda and Tanzania. 

In 1983, she took 30 Girl Scouts to Japan, where they had three-week home stays.  While there, a Baptist missionary pastor offered to assist the girls, teaching them Japanese.

Marilyn has had ties with Malawi, including sending a group of Girl Scouts with sports equipment on a visit and connecting with three Malawian Catholic priests, who studied at Gonzaga.

“It’s important to try to know other people’s cultures, thoughts and religions.  We are all one under God,” she said.

While the Whitworth Auxiliary was Presbyterian women when it began in 1912, Dorothy Dixon, who was daughter of the founder and secretary at Central Christian Church, invited Marilyn to the Silver Tea fund raiser in the early 1970s and asked her to join.  Since then it became ecumenical.

The auxiliary supports international students, helps paint and make curtains for residence halls, and tunes the pianos in the halls, among many activities.

Marilyn appreciated its role in funding international students. She befriended several international students.

For many years, she and Dale read to preschool children.  She read to children at the Bethel African American Church’s preschool for 10 years until it closed. 

She also read with preschoolers at St. Charles’ Catholic and the Hearts & Rainbows Preschool at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on S. Ray.  Dale has read at St. John Vianney’s preschool.

Marilyn grew up in Central Christian Church downtown on Third and Stevens, until the freeway came through. 

It moved to 57th and Palouse Hwy., and became Covenant Christian Church. More than 10 years ago, the church sold the building and moved to 57th and Regal. 

Still a Disciples of Christ congregation, it recently changed its name to Origin Church, in the woods at 5115 S. Freya.

Through the years with the church, she taught Sunday school, was president of the board and was involved in the women’s fellowship.

Her memorial service was June 1. Family have requested that people “bless” their favorite charity with gifts in her name.






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