Marlene Adler Marks was born and raised in New York. She earned a BA in history from Queens College, an MA in journalism from USC and a degree from the Mid Valley College of Law. She worked as a reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the Herald Examiner, and wrote for such magazines as McCall’s, Los Angeles Magazine, New Times and Juris Doctor. In March of 1987, two months before the death of her husband from heart disease, she began her column in the Jewish Journal entitled “A Woman’s Voice.” The next year, she became the Journal’s managing editor. In 1999, Marlene was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer and succumbed three year later in 2002.
Marlene’s influence on the Jewish community of Los Angeles—and beyond—through her columns was profound.
Marlene lived her life in her column. Readers learned about her husband’s death, her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, and even her dating life every week, along with her views on politics—from local to international. And they followed the course of her illness, as well, through those columns. However, as Naomi Pfefferman said in her obituary that appeared in the Jewish Journal on September 12, 2002, “Revealing as she was, Marks didn’t tell all. For example, Marks had embarked upon end-of-life spiritual counseling with Rabbi Carla Howard, director of the Jewish Hospice Project- Los Angeles, but she refused to write about it in her column. ‘She was concerned that people look to her for inspiration and hope,’ Howard said. ‘She didn’t want to alarm readers about the seriousness of her disease.’”
Marlene’s last column appeared on August 29, 2002, the week before her death. This was her theme:
I’m sorry I haven’t eaten more hot dogs. Saturday is Selichot, the time when the whole Jewish world sings with Connie Francis, “I’m sorry,” and vows to do better next time. Many of us are focused on the wrongs we’ve done to others, or even to God. This year, however, as I contemplate in yet a new way the impact of lung cancer, there’s no one to whom I owe apology more than myself. Yes, many of my apologies go to me. I should have eaten more hot dogs, with mustard and sauerkraut. And even more hush puppies, which in Jewish delis are hot dogs wrapped in potato knish, served best (if not only) in New York…. Lung cancer taught me that what we do today is fun. Tomorrow the bill comes due. Develop taste. Don’t be a snob. Don’t live in regret. Don’t worry about where your cancer is going to come from. When you have to know, you will…. I’m sorry, but I’m not guilty. I’m sorry for the false truths accepted and fun cut short without thought. I’m aware of hours spent trying to explain myself —what a waste. Years spent pursuing trivial goals—why? I was definite about ideas I knew nothing about. So much gets squeezed on to a hot dog.