Marie Wren (1928-2020)

Marie Wren (1928-2020)

Local author Earle Marie Wren, passionate advocate for Boy Scouts, public schools, Rancho Camulos, and all things Fillmore, passed away on September 12, 2020. Graveside services will be at Bardsdale Cemetery on Monday, September 28, 11 am. Masks will be required, and attendees are asked to follow the six-foot recommendation for social distancing. Due to the pandemic, there will not be a reception following the service. Marie understood that many of her family and friends would not be able to attend due to the unique time in which we find ourselves. Donations may be made, in her honor, to the Fillmore Alumni Scholarship Fund.
After 92 years and a great life, Marie Wren decided she was ready for “the next chapter” and declined treatment for her cancer. Organized until the end, she wanted to spare her family the chore of writing an obituary and so drafted her own. This is a slightly condensed version.
Earle Marie Wren was born to Buren and Jessie Johnston on July 23, 1928 in Coleman County, Texas. In 1938 Marie, her mother, and brother Kenneth moved to her grandparents’ farm in Carter County, Oklahoma. Their three-years on that farm had a great influence on Marie’s life. Not only did she learn to love the out-of-doors, nature and storytelling, but from grades 6-8 she attended a two-room country school where she met her future husband, Gene Wren.
Marie graduated from Ardmore High School in 1945 and attended Phillips University for two years while Gene was in the Army. The two married in 1947 and Fillmore became Marie’s permanent home. She never looked back. She worked for a short time at Ramona Savings and Loan and then part time for Frank Erskine, eventually taking over his small casualty insurance agency and opening her own. She retired in 1995 to devote more time to her community interests.
Marie is survived by her daughters, Kathryn Wren Gavlak (Ray) of Fillmore and Jessica Wren Vincent (Greg) of Ridgecrest, grandsons Andrew (Sara) and Patrick Beekman, and great-granddaughter Sienna Beekman. She was preceded in death by her son Steven and her husband of six decades, Gene Wren.
Marie and Gene were active in the community from the early days of their marriage. When Gene took over as Scoutmaster of Troop 406, the couple gave up square dancing to devote more time to Scouts. Marie was the camp cook during the annual family scouting adventure each summer. While Gene organized the daily activities, Marie organized the food and cooking. Those scouts and their families became part of her large extended family.
Marie served on the Fillmore Unified School Board for eight years and was the first woman on the Board after unification. In addition to Boy Scouts, she volunteered with Girls Scouts, 4-H, PTA, Soroptimist, Lions, and the Historical Museum. She worked with the Business committee of the Chamber of Commerce and always insisted the palm trees on Central Avenue not be cut down. That was the local joke around town—don’t mess with the palm trees or you will hear from Marie Wren. She also served on the board of the Senior Center, helping to add and revitalize services for Fillmore’s senior citizens. Organizing came easily to her and she could work with anyone but was known to stand her ground, particularly at City Council meetings. She was never without an opinion (just ask any of her many friends).
Honors included Fillmore Citizen of the Year and Grand Marshall of the Festival with Gene. One year the Festival provided the backdrop for Marie to sit in a wagon with Gene and share stories of Fillmore’s early days, which she loved. The couple also enjoyed playing Santa and Mrs. Santa, which they did for 25 years.
Marie loved to write in a plain, folksy way. In addition to her voluminous correspondence, she wrote an historical column for the Fillmore Herald and then the Sespe Sun. She recently published a compilation of those columns, Stories to Be Told. Marie’s grandparents were Indian Territory pioneers and she spent several years researching and writing their story, Charley and Mary Rudd (available in the Fillmore library). She built a collection of over 1000 pioneer women biographies and women’s studies from around the world as well as Early California and Indian Territory history, much of which she donated to Ventura College. She was always available to school groups that wanted to learn about women’s suffrage, pioneers or Indians, and local history.
When Marie became associated with the then-new Rancho Camulos Museum, her interest shifted from Indian Territory history to early California history, and she became a member of the first docent group at Camulos. She helped organize the Docent Council for the museum and served as Chairman for 18 months. Her final project for the Rancho Camulos Museum was raising the money for restoration of the del Valle buggy, which was presented to the Museum Board in January 2010. That project was Marie’s “pride and joy.”
Marie was proud to be a farmer’s wife and never quite recovered from the grief that Gene’s death brought her, but she was determined to keep on smiling and doing what she could right up until “the next chapter.”