Marian Alice (Davis, Hansen) Bell
Family, Faith, Country, Service
Marian Alice (Davis, Hansen) Bell passed away at 9:10 AM on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, at Quail Meadows Assisted Living Center (North Ogden, Utah) from complications of old age and Alzheimer’s Disease. She was 80-years-old and had been living with Alzheimer’s for more than 14 years, to the heartbreak of her family. Up until the final week of her life, she was in good physical health and high spirits. The end came quickly. She passed in a week. As she was surrounded by love in life, so she was also in death--comforted by children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and in-laws.
Marian was born in Denver, Colorado, on June 4, 1939, to David and Alice Davis. Named by her father after a famous actress of the time, she was the second of three children, having one older sister, Shirley (Davis) Chase, and one younger brother, Robert Davis. She was loved, and in this stable and nurturing environment, she thrived. Driven from inside to serve from an early age, she became the youngest Red Cross volunteer in the US at the age of 14. In addition, she also later served as president of her local YMCA Tri-Y group as well as head custodian for Job’s Daughters Bethel.
As middle children often are, she was a peacemaker from the beginning. Her essence was one of gentleness, meekness, and love. She carried herself with grace and dignity throughout her life and enjoyed simple pleasures, none more important than time spent with family.
Growing up, she would pass entire summer vacations from school with her mother and siblings at Meek’s Bay, Lake Tahoe--swimming, socializing, relaxing, and attending dances. Her father, who would drive up after the work week, created an elaborate campground to facilitate privacy and comfort, including a makeshift shower for his family. These would remain some of the happiest times of her life. A few years before her passing, she was brought back by her children for one last visit to this special place.
From an early age, she fell in love with music, as her parents had. About age ten, she began accordion lessons and recitals soon followed, both duet and solo. During her high school and college years, she sang in both church and school choirs. Later in life, she picked up a bit of guitar, and at the age of 40, she began piano lessons, too. And throughout her life, music always took her somewhere deep. Even in the end, when Alzheimer’s had taken seemingly all of her memories, music was one thing that could be counted on to thrill her, move her, and bring tears to her eyes regularly because of its beauty. With up-tempo tracks, she especially loved a driving bassline. “Turn it up!”
Marian spent her formative years in San Mateo, California, graduating from Hillsdale High School in 1957--a year in which she also completed a course from John Robert Powers Modelling School. By 1960, she had earned her associate’s degree from the College of San Mateo and moved up to San Francisco to work as a legal secretary.
During this time, she met Walter Alton Hansen (1932-2013), who would be her first husband and father of her first three children--Marjean (Hansen) Swanson (1962), Jon Hansen (1965), and Jill (Hansen) Guinn (1971). Her marriage to Walt (1961-1972) was difficult.
A charmer in the beginning, they did spend a few happy years together. Sharing a common love of country, they volunteered to be chapter leaders in the John Birch Society in San Francisco in the mid-sixties, hosting events and visiting persons at their home. They also joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) during this period.
Within a few months, Walt grew disillusioned with the LDS Church and stopped attending. Eventually, he forbade her and the children from having any contact with it. With this strain, his impulsivity, and other life factors--little shared time together because of his full-time job, night school (chiropractic), and employment and financial instability--she was soon praying, literally, for divorce. This came in the summer of 1972.
Freed from an extremely unhappy marriage; and, with the financial help of her loving and generous parents, she returned to San Mateo to live with her three children and returned to work part-time as a legal secretary. These were among the happiest years of her life.
She was finally the captain of her own ship, and she loved it. Nightly meals with her children around the table, laughing--always laughing in those days, about some joke or silly banter from one of her children; quiet time in the rocking chair sewing, knitting, or crocheting; sitting with her children on Saturday nights watching the Carol Burnett Show and laughing--these were among the things that characterized her life.
She and her small family also visited regularly with her parents, siblings, and their families, all of whom lived within a short drive from one another. Love, laughter, closeness, and support were shared--cousins playing “Marco Polo” in the swimming pool; opening up gifts from Nana and Grandpa D on Christmas Day; the smell of BBQ in the air; Uncle Roger’s special enchiladas; cousin Ron’s homemade pies; and enjoyable conversation at both the big table of the adults and the little one, where the rest of us children and teenagers would talk, joke, and try to impress one another with our wit.
She resumed regular attendance at church, serving in various capacities and delighting in these opportunities to learn and grow in her faith. Her belief brought her comfort during the dark times with Walt, and it continued to bring her joy now as a single woman.
She returned to the dating world about a year-and-a-half following her divorce. She went to a LDS Church dance for middle-aged singles and met Dorian Milton Bell (1929-2016), who would become her second and final husband. (In fact, she met him during her first foray into the dating world following her divorce. He was the very first person who asked her to dance once she arrived. He didn’t let her go all night.) He was recently divorced himself; a father of six children.
After her failed marriage to Walt--who was on the short side, financially irresponsible, and not a believer in her church--she said she was looking for a man who was tall, good with money, and an honorable priesthood holder. He fit the bill. They dated, fell in love, and married at the Oakland Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November 1975. She moved with her children to his house in Fremont, California, and they began their married life, one that would see them through to the end. Like all marriages, it was not perfect, but they worked at it.
She was happy about the new children and grandchildren in her life--Dorian’s. (Dorian’s children include the following: David Bell, Sue (Bell) Koch, Karen (Bell) Rendon, Pam (Bell) Guzman (now deceased), Annette (Bell) Dungan, and Diane (Bell) Kummer.) Mixing families can push new marriages to the breaking point, particularly when the step-children are resistant to the new parent. Such was not the case with Dorian’s. The Bell children (and extended family, for that matter) were accepting, loving, and willing to give her a chance from the very beginning. Like her biological children, they helped to bring her joy during good times and bad, and she loved them. They were kind, caring, and so open to her. They became a joyful fixture throughout the remainder of her life. Even Dorian’s ex-wife, Evelyn, became a friend.
By August 1977, a new source of joy was born, a little something extra to bring together the blended family: Jennifer (Bell) Smith. She was sweet, mild-mannered, adorable, and intelligent. Jennifer would be a light to Marian for the rest of her life and particularly during some very difficult years.
Marian’s love of family extended to her ancestors. She enjoyed spending hours doing genealogy--assembling histories, cataloging photos, and researching and discovering predecessors in her family line. This was a lifelong passion.
While her family was always her first priority, a close second was her religious belief and membership in the LDS Church. She felt an inner craving from a young age for something spiritual in her life. She found it when the missionaries came to her and Walt’s house. She was baptized, converted, and dedicated her life to serving in numerous capacities within the church--26, to be exact. (She kept track of every calling she had in the Church in her history, no matter how small or brief.) She taught LDS members of all ages, from children to adults. She served in leadership roles for children and women many times over through her life. She assisted in various capacities as a worker at the Oakland Temple as well as serving a mission with Dorian later in life in their community. More than half of all of the entries in her bulleted life events summary (written by her) relate to her service within the Church. She loved, joyed, and found comfort and connection in her faith.
To know Marian was to know that she was a patriot. She loved the United States, its history, its founders and framers, and believed it was a land chosen by God. Many family night activities focused on the divine nature of the nation and those inspired to establish it. George Washington was a particular favorite figure of hers. A painting was displayed for years in her living room depicting him kneeling in prayer in the winter snow next to his horse.
Some people are clean. Marian was CLEAN! While her house would never be featured in a home design and decor magazine, it was always, always, clean. Her tastes were simple. Her design, minimalistic. But no matter what furniture, arrangement, flooring, or decorations were on display, they would always be free of dust and dirt. Even in the end--while residing in the memory care wing of her assisted living center, she would clean. If she saw something on the floor, no matter how small, she would lean over, pick it up, and throw it away. While brushing her teeth only days before her passing, she was cleaning off the little bits of toothpaste spit that fell around the sink … WHILE she was still brushing AND experiencing pain.
The heart--the essence--of Marian was love. She loved people. She took them for who they were and just loved them. Biological, step- … black, white, brown … white collar, blue collar … LDS, non-LDS … it didn’t matter. She didn’t put people into boxes and decide who merited love and who didn’t. She just loved. In the days following her death, as calls, text messages, emails, and cards have come in, she has often been described as the sweetest or nicest person any of them have ever met.
Marian’s laughter, love of adventure, good humor, and quiet, meek, and loving presence will be sorely missed. She leaves behind a very large family, including: siblings Shirley Chase and Robert Davis; four children and their spouses: Marjean (Phill) Swanson, Jon (Kirsi) Hansen, Jill (Rick) Guinn, Jennifer (Eric) Smith; five step-children and their spouses: David (Jill) Bell, Sue (Ernie) Koch, Karen (John) Rendon, Annette (John) Dungan, Diane Kummer; many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; nephews and nieces; and lifelong friend Joanne Mahoney.
The family would like to extend special thanks to the following:
Marjean (Hansen) Swanson: The oldest of Marian’s children, Marjean lovingly cared for Marian’s wants and needs when not at Quail Meadows Assisted Living Facility-- shopping for her, taking her to her numerous doctor’s visits, making sure her room was beautifully decorated and warm throughout the year, getting her out for little field trips and events around town, taking her for regular drives in the canyons and mountains of northern Utah (while playing music with a good bass, of course), as well as caring for Marian’s hand and foot hygiene in a fun way with regular manicures and pedicures. Marjean bore not just the physical and logistical burden of caring for her mother (while working full-time and raising her own children), but the majority of the emotional burden of her declining mental and physical health, too. Moreover, she did this for more than a decade. (Marjean also was instrumental in caring for Dorian in similar fashion for the majority of his life in Utah.)
Quail Meadows Assisting Living Center (North Ogden): Its staff went above-and-beyond the call of duty, genuinely loving Marian and treating her with the respect and tenderness she deserved. How does one thank others for their day-to-day grace in the face of caring for people in decline and such need. They made a sad predicament as bearable as possible by making Quail Meadows feel like home.
Encompass Hospice: While only working with Marian and the family during the final days of Marian’s life, their understanding, tenderness, knowledge, and support are so deeply appreciated because Marian and the family were in such great distress. They brought needed relief to Marian’s pain which helped the family to better say good-bye to its matriarch.
For those desiring to pay their respects, viewing, funeral, and burial services will be held Saturday, September 14, 2019 at the North Ogden Coldwater Stake Center, 787 East 1700 North, North Ogden, Utah 84414. The viewing will be from 12 (Noon) to 1:40 p.m. prior the service at 2 p.m. Interment will be at 4:30 p.m. at the Hyde Park Cemetery, 400 East Center Street, Hyde Park, Utah 84318.
Arrangements entrusted to Myers Ogden Mortuary.