Marian Bush

The death of a dear friend — not anyone of great fame, but a fine and delightful person, a mainstay of both the Peninsula Sacred Harp singers (who she often hosted at her house) and the Action League of the Peninsula — our very own Raging Grannies.

Marian in Granny gear — she was funny and ornamental, but also earnest and fierce:

I especially remember coming across her at a protest against the invasion of Iraq, respendent in purple and indignation, in a crowd of Grannies. I haven’t been able to find a photo of her leading Sacred Harp, alas.

The mostly sadly routine obit from the funeral home, Lima & Campagna Mortuaries in Sunnyvale CA:

Marian Ruth Bush, March 21, 1917 – April 10, 2016 [yes, she was 99; I remember a 90th birthday party for her], resided in Santa Clara, CA

Marian Ruth Bush was born in Colorado City, Texas, to Jesse H. and Georgia Bullock. [I think I recall Marian saying that her father was an enthusiastic Sacred Harp singer; then much later in her life, she connected with the shapenote singers in California.] Preceded in death by her husband, Roland Wayne Bush [11/11/07 in Texas – 5/14/87 in Santa Clara CA], she is survived by her children, Mary Wayne Bush and Roland Randolph Bush, and her grandson, Garrett Bush.

Marian grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where she attended Polytechnic High School, after which she graduated from Texas State University in Lubbock, Texas, with a double major in English and Music. She taught music at Handley High School in Fort Worth until World War II, when she became an air traffic controller for the duration of the war. While on duty at Kirtland Field in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she witnessed the first atomic bomb blast which took place near Alamogordo, New Mexico. [More on this below.]

After completing her Masters degree at San Jose State, she taught school for 35 years in Santa Clara, California. Her hobbies were growing roses, singing in several choir groups, and taking care of her beloved cats, Millicent and Matilda (Millie and Tillie).

She belonged to the Presbyterian Church of Sunnyvale, the League of Women Voters, Alpha Delta Kappa sorority, and the Retired Teachers of Santa Clara Unified District, and was a volunteer tutor in the Santa Clara Public Library’s Project Read for many years.

More interestingly, from the local grannies (the source of the photo above):

A granny has passed. Granny Marian Bush died at age 99, at home peacefully as was her wish. She had the coolest hats and other props like this umbrella. What a trooper!

This is part of her story from an interview 8 years ago when she was 91, when she was very active protesting with the Grannies.

Protesting at this stage in her life has Bush thinking about all the times before, when she kept quiet.

Mostly, she remembers watching the sky turn to fire just outside Albuquerque in July 1945.

She had just graduated from college and was working as an air traffic controller at Kirkland Air Force Base. Moments before the explosion she gave orders to a fleet of World War II B-29 bombers to take to the sky.

“I was terrified because I thought I had given a wrong command and the bombers had crashed in the air,” she said.

The next day, the newspaper reported that an ammunition dump had exploded in Alamogordo. In time, the atomic bomb test at what’s now known as the Trinity site was revealed.

“I didn’t know until World War II was over that it had been an atomic bomb,” she said. “That’s what’s happening right now. So often we don’t know the truth.”

For reference, Wikipedia on the Grannies:

The Raging Grannies (or just “Raging Grannies”) are activist organizations in many cities and towns in Canada, the United States, and in other countries. They are social justice activists, all women old enough to be grandmothers, who dress up in clothes that mock stereotypes of older women, and sing songs at protests. They typically write the lyrics themselves, putting their political messages to the tunes of well known songs. Their activism includes peace and environmental causes.

The first group started in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada over the winter of 1986/87. They originally called themselves “NERT—Nuclear Emergency Response Team”. The members believed the presence of US Navy nuclear-powered ships’ presence in Victoria Harbour posed potential health and environmental risks to the city.

… The Action League of the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, as the group is known in the Bay Area, was the subject of the 2009 video documentary Raging Grannies.

Singing in memory of the dead. On this blog on 9/23/10, “Memorial singing”: “66 Jordan (First) is my standard choice for a memorial song”. From the song, in memory of Marian:

Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood
Should fright us from the shore.

4 Responses to “Marian Bush”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    A year or so ago we had the experience of losing five of our elderly Old Harp (New Harp of Columbia, in east Tennessee) singers in the space of six months. They were between 94 and 103 years old. At 77 and 75 Kathleen and I suddenly find ourselves among the oldest of Old Harp singers.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Well, now I’m among the oldest here. But, whimper, I haven’t been to a singing in a very long time, because I no longer have a way to get to them, and until I do huge space-clearing at my house, I’m not able to host a singing either.

  3. nadeily Says:

    When you met her in person, it was easy to tell that Marian was a special person, if for no other reason than that lilting Texas accent of hers. But as you found out more about her, you began to realize that she had led an amazingly full and diverse life and continued to do so into her late 90’s. Arnold notes: “I think I recall Marian saying that her father was an enthusiastic Sacred Harp singer.” If I’m not mistaken, I think she said that he had been an itinerant singing school teacher in rural Texas in the early 20th century, a link to a very old tradition. I’m very sorry to hear she is gone but I feel fortunate to have met her, thanks to Arnold and his love of Sacred Harp.

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