Easton Mourns the Passing of Bill Marley

theater theatre play script Marley "St. John's" reading paddle

Bill Marley, playwright, in his home on Second Street in Easton, PA.

It was with great sadness that I heard of the sudden passing of Easton playwright, author and Freddies judge, Bill Marley. Aside from always enjoying encountering him at parties, or Freddies performances, I appreciated Bill for being one of those Eastonians who did not shrink–even in his eighties–from showing up at a public meeting when it mattered, whether it be to take on the school board or city council as he felt necessary, or to support another’s efforts for the good of his community. Bill Marley loved Easton enough to fight for Easton.

But Bill was more of a lover than a fighter, a graceful and gallant man, even with a cane. He loved musical theatre and collecting art almost as much as he loved his long-time companion, Angel, a visual artist in Easton. He was the most devoted attendee of Easton’s high school musical theater scene that I know of, and looked forward to the Freddy Awards competition every year, eventually becoming a competition judge. He was a lover of theatre in general, and of Sondheim musicals in particular.

Although Bill was 87 years old, his death did come as a surprise to his loved ones. He was scheduled for a rather routine operation at Easton Hospital, and not particularly worried about it, so it came as quiet a shock to those closest to him, when he died of internal bleeding in the hospital on Tuesday. “The loss of Bill is such a shock to all of us who knew and loved him,” said long-time friend, Phyllis Johnson. “He was so wonderful–it’s a great, great loss.”

The Express-Times obituary says of Marley:

“William R. Marley, 87, of Easton, died Tuesday, February, 12, 2013 in Easton Hospital. Born: January 28, 1926 in Jackson, MS, he was a son of the late William and Geral Marley. Personal: A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and Louisiana State University, he was an author, playwright and artist. Several of his plays were produced and performed both locally and in regional theatre throughout the country, winning several awards. He had also been a Color Design Director and served in the Navy during World War II. Memberships: He was awarded lifetime membership to the Color Marketing Group and was very active in the local arts community serving as an evaluator for the Freddy Awards. Survivors: His friend and companion, Angel Suarez-Rosado; a sister, Adele Mize of Jackson, MS; nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by a sister, Marie. Services: A calling period will be held from 1 to 3:00 p.m., Monday, in the Ashton Funeral Home, 14th and Northampton Sts., Easton. Offer online condolences at www.AshtonFuneralHome.com.”

Readers are also welcome to post condolences on this blog. There will also be a memorial service at Ashton Funeral Home following the calling period at 3pm. Both the calling period and the memorial service are open to the public.

Here is my interview with Bill in May of last year, in anticipation of a local production of his trilogy of one-act plays, Miss’ssippi Medley at St. John’s in Easton. Bill was also an author, leaving behind his novel, 21 Yerger Street.

Easton’s creative community will surely miss Bill, and he will be greatly missed by the people who were lucky enough to be counted among the friends of such a warm and vibrant man.



2 Responses

  1. I only had the chance to meet Bill a few times, but he was always friendly and always held a creative spark in his eyes. The thing that gets me the most is the last time I saw him, about two weeks ago, I made a point of saying we needed to connect and chat … I’ll probably spend a long time thinking about the conversation I should have had with him.
    It’s a great loss.

  2. I didn’t speak at Bill’s service – there were more eloquent people than me for that. But I have memories of him I’d like to share here.

    Comedy was one of Bill’s strong suits as a performer and I’d like to start with an amusing aside. Bill was a terrible driver. He’d drive too fast on city streets and too slow on the highway. Whenever anyone held him up in town he had no problem laying on the horn and when they’d pass him on 22 he’d flash his high beams – even in the daytime. I once asked him what he was doing and he said he was trying to draw the other driver’s attention to the speed limit signs. I don’t think it ever worked. I used to try to figure out how to avoid being a passenger on trips to various high school musicals but I eventually gave up and figured it was the fair trade-off for spending time with someone of otherwise superlative character.

    Bill become known to me as an outcome of the citizen battle to prevent the Riverwalk project downtown. Hard to believe it was nine years ago. That eclectic group of artists and civic activist stayed together as friends through all these years. Bill introduced me to the impressive selection of performing arts in the area. My background is architecture and design but I never fully appreciated what we have here until Bill’s breadth of knowledge exposed me to it. Over the past three seasons I went from attending 3 Freddy shows in 2010 to 13 in 2011 to 25 last year. The level of talent at times brings tears to the eyes and Bill was the catalyst for allowing me to experience it.

    Bill also always wanted to know as much as he could about whatever was happening in city government. I would often write to a small group about things regarding urban planning and he’d always write back with detailed questions and requests for more information. He ate up knowledge so that he could be a better citizen. He was a great supporter of my work in the West Ward even though he was a full-time downtown resident. He was principled and when he felt his principles had been compromised he made no bones about severing relations with those responsible – even if he stood to lose something in the transaction.

    Bill was a gay man living in a city that is generally ahead of the curve in acceptance of those that have been previously shunned, This relative level of comfort didn’t stifle his flame of righteous indignation over events or keep him from using his words and his writings to forward the cause of many others – minorities, women, the poor and obviously the gay community – who continue to be taken advantage of in America.

    For me, as someone who came of age in the mid 70’s, there was always the connotation that to be gay was also to be wimpy, a push-over, someone who wouldn’t stand up in a fight. Those stereotypes were put to rest in the person of Bill Marley. As I have found myself in these many battles with this city over many issues in the past decade, I know how emotionally debilitating it can be to take them on alone. I always felt up to the task because of people like Bill Marley behind me. For everything else I could say about Bill, the one thing that stands out above all other was that he never took any shit from anybody. I was proud to call him a friend.

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