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Getting to Know You - An Interview with Marian DeBerry

Atonement Interviews

When Mother Erika suggested this assignment, it sounded both interesting and challenging. Interesting to talk to different people, including ones I didn’t know well. Challenging to try to give a sense of who they are. Perhaps the most challenging aspect was conveying in my words just how interesting the conversation turned out to be. I didn’t have an extensive list of questions. I figured they would come to mind. I did however have 2 basic questions in mind. One was suggested by one of my past French teachers. At a social gathering the French would not ask: “What is your occupation?” That was considered trying to categorize people. Rather, they would ask: What is your passion? So that was one of the questions. The other one was something that always intrigues me. Could you give me your philosophy of life in 25 words or less? And they did. - Helen Lambin

Marian DeBerry


She serves as thurifer, sub-deacon, member of the St. Cecelia choir, member of the current vestry. Meet Marian DeBerry, and her story of journey. .

Marian was born in Augusta, Georgia, where her father was stationed at an Army base. However, following her parents’ divorce, she lived with her grandparents and great-grandparents in Washington, North Carolina. Marian’s first years of school were at Immaculate heart of Mary School of Holy Child Jesus, a segregated African American School. There she received an excellent education from outstanding teachers. She lived there until she was twelve. And it was during these years that she met a boy named James, who became one of her best friends.

When her mother remarried, she moved with her to Philadelphia just before entering seventh grade, and the new school was concerned that she might not be ready for seventh grade as a result of her previous schooling. They tested her, and concluded in fact she didn’t belong in seventh grade; she belonged in eighth. However, her mother had her placed in seventh grade to be with her peers.

After junior high Marian attended Philadelphia High School for Girls. She noted that It was then and still is one of the best high schools in the city. It is still a girls’ high school, one of the only two single sex public high schools in the country.

Marian’s education and work journey covered a good part of the Eastern United States. She received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University in North Carolina, with a major in psychology. She received an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. And there was also a semester at the London School of Business, studying international finance.

She worked four and a half years for the Drexel Howard Upward Bound Program in Philadelphia. She was a financial analyst for the First Commercial Bank in Boston for four years. But Marian was bored with Boston. She wanted a city that was both Northern and Southern at the same time. What city would serve? Chicago. The Southern influence came with the black migration pattern from south to north.

Marian has lived in Chicago ever since, and has worked in banking as a financial analyst. But when she moved to Chicago, her husband-to-be moved with her from Pennsylvania: James, her boyhood and lifelong friend. James worked as regional sales manager for an RV company. He passed in 2016, two years after she came to Atonement. They were married for twenty-five years.

In answer to the question “What is your passion?”, Marian said she pondered for a week; it jumps from thing to another. But two are consistent. One is a love of cooking; the other is astrology, not in the sense of fortune telling, but of living with change. It concerns your state of mind wherever you are.

Her philosophy of life is this: Love is the answer, yes, as the Beatles song went. And yes, it can be challenging.

One thing other I’ve learned is that Marian has a “wicked funny” sense of humor. The phrase is borrowed from English slang and does not mean “mean.” It means “striking, or “very, really, funny.”

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