Telling her story, serving her community
By Jennie Berkson
A connection initiated by opera and Marlboro cigarettes brought a Lufthansa stewardess and an American GI together, setting Marlis Mann on an adventurous and community oriented life journey.
Born in Braunschweig, Germany, Marlis met her first husband David in 1958 after surviving Hitler and the Nazis, the devastation of her birthplace and World War II and its aftermath.
“Stewardesses couldn’t get married at the time and David’s company, RR Donnelly, wanted him to come back to the States as soon as possible,” she said, recalling their courtship. “When I first met him and he asked me if I would like to go to the opera, I was stunned! I thought no Americans go to the opera!”
Arriving in the United States, Marlis wasted no time getting involved in the community, a passion that has guided her entire life. From her involvement with the Junior League decorator house initiative in Deerfield, Illinois to being a president for Rotary International, Marlis contributed her skills at home and around the world.
In 1966, home also came to mean the Leelanau Peninsula and in 1973, the family cottage, named Magic Mountain, came into being, further establishing Marlis’ connection to the area along with her husband and two children Thomas and Kit.
As one of the earliest members and supporters of Share Care, Marlis has seen many different aspects of the organization and participated in many ways.
She was first introduced to Share Care by founders Paula Robertson and Virginia Willard who were also members of the same Methodist church as Marlis and David.
“We became members in 1988 and I joined the board in the early ‘90s,” she said. I did that for about 6 or 7 years.” Marlis also volunteered as a driver to medical and hair appointments.
At the time, Share Care hosted a thank you event at the Bluebird Restaurant for members who were over 80 years old. “They were designated Kings and Queens,” she recalled. “We had bouquets and musicians. Attendees under 80 paid for their lunch, Kings and Queens ate for free!”
Marlis became involved with Share Care because she believes in the values the organization represents — the ability of people to stay in their own homes as long as possible despite age or disability. She and David personally benefited from Share Care’s services as well prior to his death in 2004.
“Anne Kelly came to our house every day,” remembered Marlis. “She was a wonderful nurse.”
In addition, Marlis has served on many other local boards, including The Old Art Building and the Traverse City Symphony.
Her involvement with the community connected her to her second husband Tom
Skinner, a film producer. Together they wrote a book about Marlis’ eventful life entitled Becoming Marlis Mann: growing up under Hitler, surviving the war and making a life.
Although Marlis continues several of her board connections, she also savors the simple pleasures of life. “In my spare time, I like to take a walk with my husband,” she said.