Landmarks 03

Marian St. Onge

August 17, 1944 ~ August 18, 2021 (age 77) 77 Years Old


Marian Fullerton Brown St. Onge was born on August 17, 1944 at the Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey to Lois Svensrud Brown and John Clark Brown, both originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with her older brother John Clark Brown, Jr., Marian was raised at 372 Highland Avenue in Montclair, where she attended the Kimberly School for girls (now Montclair Kimberly Academy) from which she graduated in 1962. Marian’s educational odyssey soared from there on to Agnes Scott College, a women’s college in Decatur, Georgia and, later, The University of Colorado Boulder, wherefrom her fascination with the French language and passionate wanderlust led her to the University of Bordeaux in France for her senior year. She graduated with a degree in European History and French in 1966, followed by a two-year residence in London, where she worked in the fashion department at the Sunday Observer.

Married in 1968 to Richard Arthur St. Onge, M.D., she gave birth to her first son, Richard Anton St. Onge in 1969 and her second son, Joseph Clark St. Onge in 1971. She raised her boys in and around the Boston area, with a year abroad in Scotland (outside of Glasgow in Bearsden), when she published her first book, “Try Glasgow: An Uncommon Living Guide to the City” (Heatherbank Press), along with her friend Susan Hight, in 1976. Marian went on to continue graduate studies at Boston College, earning a M.A. (1975) and a doctorate (Ph.D. 1984) in French Literature, all the while teaching at B.C. and raising her sons. Married again in 1981 to George Lee Sargent, Jr. and divorced in 1986, at which time Marian moved with her sons to Cambridge, where she resided happily in a cozy old carriage house until her untimely death. The last 23 years of a glorious life were spent with her loving partner, Marshall Smith of Brookline, both in Cambridge and in the wild, beloved dunes of Truro on the Outer Cape, where Marshall built a rustic compound for them to share lazy, halcyon summer days and long, dark winter nights. 

Marian was a beautiful, spirited, and insatiably curious woman full of life, laughter, and wisdom. An enduring interest in history, poetry, and the Romance Languages underpinned a long academic career at B.C., where she taught both French language and literature, in addition to directing the Women’s Studies Program, Coordinator of the French Language Program, later becoming the Founding Director of the Center for International Partnerships and Programs (CIPP), a position she held for 15 years — successfully coordinating international activities across the university and more than forty institutional partnerships (both academic and business related) in Boston and around the world. Marian loved her work and was widely recognized and praised for her accomplishments, many fellowships and awards including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The American Association of Teachers, and the Pi Delta Phi French Honor Society. In 1988 she was granted the Strasbourg University Award for Contribution to International Understanding; in 1993 she received a Fullbright Fellowship; in 1996 she was a White House Honoree for her work on the Bosnian Libraries Restoration project; and, ten years later (2006), Marian served as the Distinguished Michael Dukakis Visiting Professor in International Affairs at the American College of Thessaloniki in Greece. During her time at B.C., Marian also published numerous articles and essays regarding international and cultural issues, taking a well-earned early retirement in 2006. 

Her post-retirement years were as busy as her years at B.C. with various eclectic writing projects and publications in poetry and biography, serving as the President of the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association as well as travelling constantly across the globe nurturing her passion for discovery and maintaining her bonds among a rich network of family and friends — from Sun Valley, Idaho to Sunset Beach (Oahu), Hawaii to see her adoring sons and granddaughters, and beyond. She was happiest among family and friends, spending most of her time with Marshall either in Cambridge or out in the windswept dunes of Truro, cooking fabulous meals, reading, writing, swimming, and, above all, thinking — she lived a full, wonderful life perpetually engaged and engaging. Before her death, she was finalizing the manuscript of a major historical project (for which she received a Norman Mailer Fellowship Award), a biography of the French World War II Resistance leader and Catholic priest, Louis Favre. 

Those who had the privilege and good fortune to know her loved and admired Marian for her wit, style, intelligence, candor and generosity. She was a devoted mother and loyal friend, as well as a consummate educator, poet, and bon vivant who touched, inspired, enhanced and enriched the lives of everyone she knew — most especially her sons, grandchildren, friends, and students. As a mother and grandmother, Marian always made sure that everyone all got together and did interesting things in beautiful places. She loved nothing more than to be with her family exploring, discovering something new. For all that and so much more, her sons and granddaughters are eternally grateful.

Marian was struck suddenly and unexpectedly with an aggressive cancer of the pancreas just a week shy of her 77th birthday (much like her own father, John, who also fell to pancreatic cancer a day before his own 78th birthday in 1969). Her sons, Joe and Andy, were there with her until the end, which came peacefully and quietly early on the 18th of August in Lincoln. Massachusetts. Marian died as she lived — with strength, grace, dignity, and a clear mind, with full understanding that all things return and life is in many ways a circle, an Odyssey of sorts that begins and ends more or less in the same place where it started.

“In the end comes also our beginning, the ancient sense of a door opening to some final unknown, some invisible voice attempting to help us come to terms with our own disappearance, the hand extended to help us over a horizon equally as mysterious as the one we crossed at our birth.” (David Whyte)

Her last days were spent reflecting on the path of life and where it ends. Marian accepted it all with open eyes and no regret, prepared for what comes next, that which she and her sons discussed in terms of The Great Mystery. She made that transition willfully and courageously, letting go lightly to a life she otherwise held on to tightly, soaring like a White Swan into the eternal afterlife. Given her abiding love for the forces of Nature — particularly the Sea and Sky — it is perhaps fitting to close with a poem written by Theodore Stanley Wilder (father of Marian’s best life-long friend: Anita Rubira Wilder Smith): 

            “Whirl me up, and out, and away

            To a place with limits wide.

            Where there’s naught to see —

            But immensity

            Much to think and little to say —

            Thoughts my only guide.


            Oh give me, high in the fresh-wash’d blue,

            A couch on that cloud of snow.

            And there I’ll eye,

            With sight that is new,

            Mysteries of the windy sky —

            Forgetting the Earth below.


            Or, tonight let me be on a rock by the sea

            With the swish of the waves on the sand

            In the dark of the night,

            With the stars ancient light —

            Teach me there to understand

            The Universe and me.


            So, whirl me, to-day, away, away

            To a place which reaches wide.

            Where there’s much to think and little to say

            And my thoughts are my only guide.”

                           - TSW (1918)

Marian is survived by her sons and granddaughters: Richard “Andy” St. Onge and his daughter Bruna Brown St. Onge (22), of Sunset Beach, Hawaii; and Joe St. Onge and his daughters Neve Lee (13) and Soleil Gillian St. Onge (10), of Hailey, Idaho. She is also survived by her life-partner Marshall Smith of Truro, as well as her brother Clark of Los Angeles. There will be no funeral or memorial service at her request. Adieu.


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