Marilyn Briscoe

Marilyn Briscoe in her Muscatine home.

Autumn Phillips photo

When Marilyn Briscoe sees images of those protesting Trump, she gets irritated.

“The marches have no purpose,” she said. “They are not very directional. They are all over the place.”

Briscoe is, above all things, a pragmatic person, she said. And she’s someone who, even during years as a single mother, “never had a handout in my life.”

“I’m feeling like I survived eight years of Obama,” she said. “Now, they are crying on the floor. Their candidate didn’t run a good campaign and was not honest. Their team didn’t win.

“When Obama won, I did not vote for him, but he was my president. I’m thrilled about Trump. We elected someone who can make decisions.”

Briscoe has been a Republican her entire life. She voted for Goldwater in her first election. The one exception was the year she voted for Ross Perot, because she thought he would get things done.

She has a checklist of expectations for Trump’s presidency: “I want to see the least among us helped. Some people are working two jobs to makes ends meet. We need jobs that actually pay something.” She wants to see Trump address mental health issues, especially for veterans.

Briscoe, who now lives in Muscatine, grew up on a farm in LaSalle County, Illinois.

“On a farm, you make do with what you have. If something breaks and you don’t have a part, you jury-rig it. That is so ingrained in my mind.”

As she told me the story of her life, the thread was that each obstacle she met was a redefining moment. She paused, looked at her life like a puzzle and problem solved her way to the next chapter.

She went to school in Tonica, Illinois, which had a population of about 500 then. She took piano lessons and played piano and organ that her great grandmother bought for the Lutheran church. She never thought about going to college. Her dad left school after the sixth or seventh grade and her mom had an eighth grade education. “She was very bright, but she had no reason to go to high school.”

She graduated from high school and went to work as a secretary at Westclox in Peru, Illinois. Her boyfriend was in dental school. He came home during a break and after dinner at her parent's house, (“I still remember that he waited until after he ate dinner”), he told Marilyn that he couldn’t see her as the wife of a dentist because she didn’t go to college. If they had married, she probably never would have enrolled as a music major at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, on a scholarship since she graduated second in her high school class.

“In hindsight, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said.

She worked her way through college – in the cafeteria during the school year, and the swing shift at Owens-Illinois Glass Company in the summer in Steator, Illinois. She met her first husband at the glass factory. She sent him letters to his home at University of Illinois in Champaign and visited him, taking the first plane ride of her life. “By Nov. 1, I had a diamond.” She got a bachelor’s in fine arts in 1966 and moved to Champaign to be with her husband and to earn her master’s. Her son, Greg, was born on June 8, 1968. “Now, he’s 6’7”, but he was four weeks early, weighed 5.2 pounds. He was a little peanut.”

Her marriage fell apart in 1970, and after moving back home for a time, she got a job teaching elementary school in Round Lake, Illinois. She taught until she retired in 1994 when Illinois was offering early retirements, in a program informally known as the “Five Plus Five” plan. “I packed up my Miata sports car, pulled away and never looked back,” she said.

Briscoe moved to Muscatine to be near her son and her grandchildren this past June.

She said the decision came after she got the courage during a long car ride to address some strain they had in their relationship. They were both honest and by the end of the talk, the tension gave way to relief. He invited her to move to Iowa to be close to her grandchildren. “I was in tears. We were all crying.”

By that night, she was looking online for a house in Muscatine. She had a house to sell and her mother’s house needed to be sold, after her recent passing. It all happened fast. Nine and a half weeks later, she was moving into her new home and soon after that, she was sitting at the table with her 9 year old granddaughter and 4 year old grandson doing craft projects, “getting glitter everywhere.”

“I’m the most blessed person who ever lived,” she said.

Autumn Phillips is the executive editor of the Quad-City Times. If you want to be part of this “What They Don’t Know About Us” series on what we believe and why we believe it, email aphillips@qctimes.com or call 563-383-2264.

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