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Ethel Marie Marbley

March 15, 1933 January 9, 2013
Ethel Marie Marbley
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Obituary for Ethel Marie Marbley

"The Ides of March - that's when I was born"....that's what Ethel Marie McNatte always said.  Born on March 15, 1933 in Philadelphia, PA to Brazzle(Brazzie) Harris and Frank McNatte, Ethel Marie was the youngest of 3 children.  She and siblings - brother, David and sister, Frances (both deceased) - grew up in a close knit family in a North Philadelphia 3 story walk-up.  Growing up, Ethel and her siblings held affectionate childhood memories with her grandparents and other family members from time spent between Philadelphia and Columbia, South Carolina.  She studied in the Philadelphia School system and completed studies at Gratz High School.

Married to Raymond Johnson and later to Arnold Marbley (deceased), Ethel was a wonderful and loving mother of 4 children; Raymond, Ellen, George and Tracy (deceased).  She filled the lives of her children with fun and entertainment.  Whether it was at the beach, road trips to Atlantic City and Wildwood, or "hanging out" at the house, Ethel made sure her children always had good times and plenty of good food.

Ethel was very creative, talented and developed a strong work ethic early on from her parents.  She worked in the restaurant industry, and later developed entrepreneurial skills which led to several successful business ventures with her husband, Arnold.  Her creativity and passion for sewing and design, led her to become a self taught mater seamstress and dress maker.  Ethel held several positions in the garment industry at the Quartermasters in South Philadelphia amd later at Marilyn Wolf Designs in Narberth, PA.  At Marilyn Wolf, she specialized in chenille designs which included robes, jackets, accessories and soft luggage and garment bags.  Her beautifully designed chenille robes were featured on a popular television show, "It Takes Two" starring Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and sold at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's.  She also designed and made robes for the Ritz Carlton.  During this time, her personal clientele grew and her passion and specialty for wedding, prom and formal gowns blossomed.  Many of Ethel's customers came from women who wanted to know where she shopped for the beautiful clothing she, her daughters and granddaughters wore.  They were sold on her services when she told them, "I made them!".  They became long-time customers.  Often times in the early morning, Ethel's sewing machine could be heard running as she finished up her outfit for the day - working to get each stitch just right.  She could be heard delivering that famous phrase "Girl, will you stand still so I can sew the trim on this dress"...spoken while she was putting the finishing touches on her "grinds" prom dresses.  Easter was always an especially joyous time for her, as she remained busy creating new outfits for the "girls".

As a master cook and baker, there was never an occasion without an Ethel delectable dish or delicious cake or pie.  In addition to her favorite television shows including, "The Golden Girls", "Murder She Wrote" and "Wheel of Fortune", Ethel would turn on the food network and after watching several shows - would get in the kitchen and "cook up a storm".  Many will carry on her legacy through the various recipes that she reluctantly disclosed.  And music...Ethel loved her music.  Sounds of Ethel singing with Nancy Wilson, Brook Benton, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington, could be heard filling the house.  Her daughters loved to hear Ethel sing and thought she should be on stage!  Her children also have warm memories of sitting at the top of the stairs and quietly listening in during "Mom's" parties and celebrations.

She loved the beach, every summer initiating many family trips to her "favorite" Atlantic City.  The Caribbean, Hawaii and Europe were also destinations that she enjoyed.  Along with her friends, Ethel enjoyed the "old" Atlantic City nightlife, and loved to dress up in sharp clothes, shoes and her favorite pocketbooks to go out.  She was known for her pocketbooks.  With a beautiful smile and contagious laugh, she always brought fun to an event with her lively spirit.

As one of the 1st homeowners of the Millcreek Townhouses, Ethel developed life-long friendships on Cristina Place, becoming a steadfast neighbor with her close knit group of friends there.  Over the past few years, she often enjoyed sitting on the front patio talking to neighbors and listening to the Phillies baseball games with her best bud Jimmy.

Ethel found her spiritual home at Peniel Baptist Church where she became very active in the growth and progress of the church, and devoted her time as a trustee, choir member and starting a devotional ministry.  Sister Marbley spent many years traveling and making wonderful memories with her church members and friends.  Her grandchildren were members and were very active in youth programs at the church.  People have fond memories and still tell wonderful stories about them today.  She continued the legacy with her great-grand, Jailah.

Above it all, Ethel was truly the sunshine to everyone's day.  She always had a kind work to say about anyone.  If she did have to say a "snippy" word or two, the words would be funny because of Ethel's unique humor...which was all her own...somehow it didn't seem like a "snip" at all and you began to laugh with her.

Her gentle and caring spirit will always be held in the hearts of family and friends who loved her.  Many terms of endearment adorned her including, "Mom, Aunt Ethel, Miss Ethel and Gram".  She leaves to hold loving memories, her children, Ellen Johnson, Raymond Johnson and George Thomas; grandchildren Ashley and Ashyra and the "little" love of her life, great-granddaughter, Jailah.

this is only 1 part of her story.  She and God know the rest.  On Wednesday, January 9th, around 4:15pm, God quietly accepted Ethel's hand, moving her on to receive her promised reward.  "Well done my good and faithful servant". (Matthew 25:23 KJV)

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, January 16, 2013 11:00 AM at Peniel Baptist Church located at 2511-13 West Jefferson Street.

To send flowers in memory of Ethel Marie Marbley, visit the Tribute Store.

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