August 24, 1937 ~ October 8, 2020

Born in: San Francisco, California
Resided in: Fremont, California

Marilyn Ruth Russo (née Martinez) passed away on October 8, 2020 after a battle with bladder cancer. Born in San Francisco on August 24, 1937, Marilyn was a larger-than-life presence: gregarious, talkative, opinionated, and most of all loving. From friendships begun during her days at Star of the Sea Elementary and High schools to travel companions in retirement years, Marilyn spent her life building and cultivating relationships — she was even known to pick up friends for her children.

The most important relationships in her life, though, were her family. When she was introduced to Thomas Russo by a dear friend, she was, in true Marilyn fashion, decisive (says Tom: “After a couple dates, I said, ‘I think I love you,’ and the next thing I knew I was getting married!”). The couple married in 1964, and the large, loving (and loud) family they created was their shared passion throughout their 56 years of marriage. Ask her five children Marilyn’s motto and they’ll all laugh, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” But as much as Gregg Russo, Elise Markel, Scott Russo, Kristen Merghart, and Suzanne Russo joked with their mother about her constant worrying, love of pictures with matching clothing, and “unique” organizational style, they’re all grateful for her fierce devotion to and unfaltering pride in them. Her children-in-law (Tiffany Russo, Paul Markel, Denise Russo, and Steve Merghart) fondly remember her easy humor and the endless adoration she bestowed on her eleven grandchildren. And her grandchildren (Alyssa, Nicolette, and Olivia Russo; Justin and Lauren Markel; Giovanni, Gabriella, and Dario Russo; and Gianna, Nathan, and Zachary Merghart) will forever cherish memories of Nonna’s pumpkin bread, tea parties, special treats, ferry rides, Johnny Rockets’ restaurant adventures, and so much more.

During their 52 years living in Fremont, Marilyn and Tom enjoyed an amazing community of friends-cum-family, mostly from their days as Holy Spirit and Moreau Catholic parents. If friendship were a company, Marilyn would’ve been the CEO — she regularly enjoyed lunches and long phone calls with her many friends, and she loved hosting dinners and parties in her home. After devoting her life to raising children, she got to indulge her love of travel in later years, enjoying many cruises and other trips. She was the nucleus of her vast extended family, keeping tabs on cousins both near and far-flung. And in addition to mothering her five children, Marilyn is considered “honorary mother” by countless others she welcomed and nurtured over the years.

A service will be held on Saturday, December 5 at Holy Spirit. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, in-person attendance is limited, but the service will be streamed for those unable to attend.

Many reading this have received a greeting card (or several) from Marilyn over the years — in sympathy or celebration following significant life events, or just because. If you wish to honor her memory, please send a card to a loved one.


Memories Timeline


  1. CandleA beautiful tribute to your mom. May God’s blessings shine brightly with beautiful stories and memories of your mom and grandmother. Peace and Love, The Langenderfer’s- Allison, Marty, Joe, Emily and John

  2. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful vibrant person. I love your mom’s motto “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” So true for all of us moms. Please know our thoughts and prayers are with Marilyn and your entire family during this difficult time.
    With love,
    Lisa and Tony Zinno

  3. CandleSad sad day when we lost Marilyn! I did consider her my second mom and will miss her dearly. She passed the day before my mother (Mary Jo Camello’s) birthday. They were such great friends and she did so much to be there for both my mother and father before their passing. We joke that my mother was throwing a party in heaven and invited Marilyn to leave her pain ridden life and come join the cool kids in heaven for her birthday. I’m sure they are still catching up 🙂 The entire Camello family thank you for everything you have done for us over the years. She also welcomed my wife and all of my sister in-laws into her life as well and quickly became a favorite to all. We all love you!! Rest in Peace


  4. Such a nice tribute to your mom. She sure did a wonderful job as CEO of friendship, so many beautiful friendships she and your dad created. She will surely be missed. Love and prayers to the Russo Family.

  5. May God bless you my dear friend of over 40 years–can’t remember ever having a disagrement or even a spat.
    I shall miss you forever, and thank you for so many good memories and times together. Lovingly, Liz

  6. Marilyn was a cousin, a friend, and an inspiration. She babysat my siblings, provided guidance on motherhood after our mother left us, and was an ongoing source of family connections and love. I loved her and still love her family for always being there-a testimony to being joined together by more than being relatives. Being her flower girl showed that the span of years could produce a new blossoming of a relationship for all my family.
    much love,

  7. Marilyn was a wonderful and generous woman who always had a kind word and a warm hug. She is the reason that I get to have her amazing daughter Suzanne as a best friend. I am forever grateful. Thank you, Marilyn, for giving so much of yourself while you were with us all. May you have eternal peace. My thoughts are with Tom and the Russo family.

    Tiffany May

  8. CandleMarilyn was a wonderful and hilarious friend to our family. She did play favorites, though. She loved my brother, Patrick, more than the rest of us-and we loved teasing her about it. She was always quick with the one liners and just as quick with compliments. It was sweet to reconnect with her on FB these last few years, and every year those family Christmas cards were something spectacular. You left a lot of love, fire, and grace as your legacy, Marilyn. Thank you…

  9. CandleI am a friend that she picked up for her daughter! What a fun and magical day that was. I am going to miss Marilyn so much and her witty sense of humor, but most of all being able to absorb some of the love she bestowed on the people she cared about. She was fierce, and in return fiercely loved. I miss you M!

  10. In memory of your dear and loving mother, Marilyn, we offer you this poem by an unknow author:
    “Your Mother is always with you, She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, She’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you were little and not feeling well, She’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day. She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of the rainbow; She is Christmas morning. Your Mother lives inside your laughter, She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you … not time … not space … Not even death.” Sending all the Russo Family our deepest condolences … we will miss her.

  11. Marilyn was very special to me in several ways. She was my godmother, and it made me happy to know that she always valued this unique and enduring link between us. She was also my cousin, but just enough older to play a much different role than most of my other cousins. When we were very young, she was a babysitter to my sisters and me. Later she took us on outings. Gradually, we realized that she was always just that much ahead of us, giving us a hint of which steps we might encounter a little later in our own lives. Now, as Marilyn has preceded us once again, I remember her courage and optimism as examples still calling us forward.

  12. CandleMarilyn was such a dear friend to me from high school to the present I will miss her laugh; lunches; and our talks She will always be in my heart My deepest sympathy to Tom and all you wonderful children You made your mother so proud

  13. CandleOur hearts are broken but we are so grateful and blessed to have been loved by and shared so many happy life events with our Auntie Marilyn. She is forever in our hearts.

    With love and prayers,
    Julianne, Peter, Allison and Jeannine


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