Marilyn Romriell: Creativity Is Her Antidote

“Marilyn Romriell: Creativity Is Her Antidote,” Ensign, Dec. 1987, 59–60

Marilyn Romriell: Creativity Is Her Antidote

After changing into a swimsuit, seventeen-year-old Marilyn Romriell from McCammon, Idaho, charged to the side of the Lava Hot Springs pool to dive in. She must have slipped, for the next thing she remembers is a stunning blow to her head, then sinking to the bottom of the pool, unable to move. She was brought back to the surface, by a lifeguard and a Scoutmaster, who administered artificial respiration until a doctor arrived.

For thirty years now, Marilyn has been completely paralyzed from a broken neck. The dreams and plans of a lifetime had changed in an instant. But Marilyn Romriell has not changed. She has great faith in a loving Father in Heaven and in a Savior whose suffering has given her life meaning and perspective.

When Marilyn was first released from the hospital, she was confined totally to bed. Her family placed her bed in the living-room doorway so that she could communicate with visitors and be part of the comings and goings at the front door. As time passed, her horizons broadened as she was able to be strapped upright in a wheelchair some of the time. In this position she has learned to type on an electric typewriter by holding a stick in her teeth to strike the keys. This has enabled her to keep a journal through the many years since her accident. “The things we do, the books we read,” Marilyn wrote in a journal entry, “are reflections of our thoughts and what we as persons are like.”

Just prior to her accident, Marilyn had completed her junior year of high school. She was intent on earning her diploma, yet couldn’t attend school. But with incredible determination and help from her teachers, Marilyn was able to finish her studies at home and graduate. Then she took some college classes by correspondence, with family members doing the foot- and handwork.

In her own way, and with help where needed, Marilyn has spent many hours in various Church positions and activities. She considers that one of the most important achievements of her life was earning the Golden Gleaner award from the Church, formerly awarded to young women. It was difficult meeting the requirements, but ultimately she was ready and the General Board approved.

Marilyn has served the Church and community in usual and unusual ways. She has been instrumental in encouraging many students to enroll in seminary and has written hundreds of letters to missionaries, college students, and servicemen. Through the years, she has sung in the ward choir and been active in the local Single Adult group. Her love extends to everyone, including the children at the school next door, who come often to Marilyn’s home to practice reading aloud to her. Although Marilyn can enjoy the “freedom” of her wheelchair for a few hours at most, she uses those hours well. She has been able to take advantage of the blessings of temple attendance. In addition to her Church activities, she was assistant coach for a local softball team for eighteen years.

In 1979, Marilyn started on yet another ambitious project—she signed up for a painting class. With her wheelchair, long stick brushes that she holds in her teeth, and custom-made palette, easel, and clamps, she has created breathtaking oil and acrylic portraits of the beauties of the earth. Today, after years of preparation, her paintings are reproduced on greeting cards. The inside is blank so it can be used for any occasion; Marilyn’s remarkable story is printed on the back.

In addition, Marilyn writes inspirational prose and poetry. One of her poems, “Friendship,” was published in a national magazine.

Marilyn loves to visit and reminisce. Everyone who comes to see her enjoys a lively conversation. One time the subject might be the scriptures, which she studies diligently as she turns the pages by means of a rubber-tipped stick held between her teeth. Another day’s conversation might center on world happenings, which Marilyn keeps abreast of by watching television.

Marilyn’s countenance radiates love and cheer, and her gentle humor makes all who meet her feel at ease in her presence. “I know the Lord has a mission for me,” she confides. Anyone who knows Marilyn knows how productive her life has been. Her lively sense of humor is reflected in the message of a sign that hangs above her bed: “I am not loafing.”

To those around her, Marilyn Romriell’s life is an inspiration.

[photo] Photography by Jed A. Clark