Marilyn Dawson died peacefully at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital on Jan. 20. She was 82. She waited for her husband, the Rev. Paul S. Dawson, to be at her side, dying within moments of his arrival.

Marilyn was born on Oct. 14, 1932 in Crisfield, on the eastern shore of Maryland. She lived in nearby Pocomoke City, with her father William Hardester, mother Ada Lee Lawson Hardester, and older sister Ada Lee (Mickey). All of the neighborhood kids in their small town would play together, Marilyn often tagging along with her sister and friends. At age three, she followed the older kids into the top floor of a house that was under construction, and fell from the attic rafters all the way to the basement. Amazingly, a man had just walked in, heard her screams, and caught her. She remembered all of the splinters her mom had to pull out of her arms and legs, which her sister recalls made her “scream bloody hell.”

She graduated with her class of 31 from Pocomoke High School in 1949. She went on to Western Maryland College and majored in music education. According to an article in her college newspaper, Marilyn had a “flair for fashion” and was “Possessed with an insatiable enthusiasm for anything musical.” She performed many duets and solos in college, including a duet at her graduation in 1953, and was a member of the College Choir, Girls’ Glee Club, College Singers, and Girls’ Octet. Another quote fit her to a tee: “To some, Marilyn seems reserved, yet it only serves to make her friendship more valuable. Her droll humor sparks any hen gathering, and she will long be remembered for a few choice remarks subtly placed.”

Marilyn met her future husband, Paul, also a music major, when he arrived at Western Maryland their sophomore year. Paul and Marilyn were married on June 25, 1960 at Christ Church in Port Republic, Md. She wrote a letter to her parents from her honeymoon at a bayside cottage in South Truro, saying they were “enjoying being revoltingly lazy,” and visited Provincetown, which was “all very arty.” She also said, “we felt and still feel guided into our marriage by a grace, and are sure that, if we let it, the same grace will carry us over the bumps.” They would be together most every day for the next 54 years.

Daughter Susan Elizabeth was born in March 1962, and Marilyn stayed home with her for the next four years. Once Susan entered preschool in 1966, Marilyn started teaching again, mostly at the schools her daughter attended. She taught kindergarten, music, preschool, second grade, third grade, and twice was a librarian, at a number of schools in Maryland, including Friends School in Baltimore. While at Friends, she earned a master’s in education with an emphasis in reading from Johns Hopkins University in 1979. In all, she taught for 20 years. Susan’s favorite memories of her mom were during the early years, when Marilyn often read to her, and taught her to make pies, knit and sew. She played a mean game of jacks, and was always willing to play board games. Family dinners were sometimes on tray tables in front of favorite TV shows, and others on their screened-in porch, where they’d drink Marilyn’s super-sweet homemade iced tea.

But as the years passed, Marilyn’s dry wit and creative energies waned and she felt increasingly unwell. Marilyn’s health was an issue for most of her adult life. She had frequent severe headaches, and began having seizures in her 30s. In 1983, she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, and had neurosurgery to install a shunt. An infection from the surgery almost killed her, and the shunt was removed. In some ways, she would never be the same.

Marilyn and Paul moved a lot — partly because of the various jobs Paul had over the years, but mostly because they enjoyed the challenge of redoing houses. During their 54 years of marriage, they lived in 17 different houses and apartments. From 1960 to 1997 they lived in Maryland — Shady Side, Kingsville, Baltimore, Westminster, and Frederick. During this time, while Paul was an Episcopal curate, rector, or chaplain, Marilyn was a soloist and member of each church choir. One parishioner wrote: “We’ll always remember the very quiet Marilyn, who only raises her voice in gorgeous song!” Paul was always very moved by her singing and enjoyed listening to her practice at their piano. They shared many interests in common, including art, music, antiques, their pets, and mystery TV shows.

In 1997, they moved to New Hampshire. Marilyn’s health declined severely. A top neurosurgeon installed a shunt in 1999, and Marilyn had a few years of remarkable improvement. She and Paul moved to Falmouth, Oak Bluffs, and then Vineyard Haven. Marilyn’s health steadily declined, and she moved permanently to Windemere Nursing Home in 2009. Paul visited her almost every single day, and got to know much of the Windemere and hospital staff during his frequent lunches with Marilyn in the cafeteria. Her last years were very quiet. She was confused much of the time, but felt most comfortable keeping that to herself. Her one tether to this world, remaining clearly in her mind, was her husband Paul, whom she knew to her last moment.

Marilyn is survived by her husband, the Rev. Paul S. Dawson of Vineyard Haven; daughter Susan Dawson and her spouse Alison Shaw of Oak Bluffs, grandchildren Sarah Shaw Dawson and Jesse Shaw Dawson; sister Ada Lee Hardester Bicknell and husband William Bicknell of Parsonsburg, Md.; nieces Melissa Bicknell Graham and her children William and Susan Graham of Parsonsburg, Md., and Molly Bicknell Poore and her children Meredith and Raleigh Poore of Huntsville, Ala.

A requiem will be celebrated at Grace Church, Vineyard Haven, at 4 p.m., on Saturday, March 14.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1197, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 or to Windemere Recreation Department, P.O. Box 1747, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.