Marjorie Van Cleef, music teacher and international activist for peace and social justice, dies at 86


Marjorie Van Cleef, 86, of Wyncote, a music teacher in Philadelphia and Coatesville and a lifelong international peace and social justice activist, died Tuesday, Oct. 26 from the COVID-19 outbreak at the Pennsylvania hospital .

During her long career as a strategist, organizer and protester for peace, justice and equality in the world, Ms. Van Cleef has participated, often as a leader, in protests against war, racial prejudice , police brutality, unfair labor and economic development policies. , environmental destruction and other important issues of his time.

She was particularly dedicated to ending the use of drones as weapons of war, and she founded the Philadelphia Center City Drone Death Walk / Vigil and co-founded the Philadelphia Area Anti-Drone Network.

Tireless and zealous in the pursuit of her goals, she often wrote and spoke publicly of her opinions, carried banners to the forefront of the steps and embraced the street theater wearing a death mask and dressing in black during of its anti-drone rallies.

“Martin Luther King spoke of militarism as a threat to democracy,” Ms. Van Cleef wrote in a review of Grégoire Chamayou’s book in 2016 A drone theory. “Surely, secrecy in the use of drones for war purposes poses such a threat. “

Ms Van Cleef addressed police brutality against people of color long before the Black Lives Matter movement emerged, and she avoided buying products from corporate giants because of what she saw as theirs. exploitation of workers.

In addition to her own groups, she was active with Women Against Military Madness, the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom and other organizations. His extensive collection of documents associated with these groups can be found at Swarthmore College and other universities.

“She was 100% into the right social activism,” said her friend and colleague Karen Barton, coordinator of the Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition. “She was so sensitive to every problem, even the micro-attacks she saw every day.”

Ms. Van Cleef was a child musician, playing the piano at the age of 4. She received a Bachelor of Music in 1957 from the Conservatory of Oberlin College and a Masters of Education from the University of Massachusetts in the 1970s.

She has been a lifelong church organist, most recently at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Northeast Philadelphia, and taught music at William H. Shoemaker Junior High School in West Philadelphia and to elementary students in the Coatesville Area School District and New Haven, Conn.

She then taught English and writing at community colleges in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Illinois. “She loved being a teacher,” said her daughter, Liz.

Born May 3, 1935 in Philadelphia, Ms. Van Cleef grew up in Jenkintown and graduated from Jenkintown High School in 1953. She enjoyed knitting and sewing as an adult, and she made her own candles, looked after her child. own organic garden and bought her books from local stores when she couldn’t get them at the library.

She married Henry Van Cleef and had their daughter and son, Chris. They divorced in 1967 and she met her longtime partner Bill Dyson in New Haven in 1979. For over 30 years in New Haven, then Bryn Mawr and Wyncote, Ms. Van Cleef and Dyson lived and protested together.

“We loved to laugh and talk about everything we did,” Dyson said.

In an online tribute, a friend wrote: “Marjorie made a difference. We must follow his example and stand up for what we know to be right. “

In addition to her children and her partner, Ms. Van Cleef is survived by three grandchildren, a brother and other relatives. Her ex-husband died in 2019.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 6 at Memorial of the Good Shepherd Church, 3820 The Oak Rd., Philadelphia. A service in New Haven is to take place later.

Donations in her name can be made to the Native American Rights Fund, 1506 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado 80302; Partners in Health (identify Haiti), PO Box 996, Frederick, Md. 21705, and Women for Women International, PO Box 9224, Central Islip, NY 11722.

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