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PASSAGES: Author and editor Darlene R. Stille dies
by Carrie Maxwell
2017-11-08

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Darlene R. Stille, 75, died Oct. 28 of colon cancer.

At the time of her death, Stille was living in New Buffalo, Michigan with her partner of 40 years Cynthia Marquard. The couple lived together in Chicago for many years and were instrumental parts of the LGBTQ business, philanthropic and advocacy communities.

Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Divinity, performed their commitment ceremony at Evanston's Christ the Redeemer MCC Church in 1988. Stille was active for many years in MCC churches in the Chicagoland area and later in Indiana.

Stille was born April 17, 1942 in Chicago and spent her childhood in Logan Square before moving to the Norwood Park neighborhood during her teenage years. She graduated from Taft High School in 1960.

During her college years, she wanted to be a doctor and looked into medical schools but admission was difficult for women so she went to University of Illinois at Navy Pier and transferred to University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana where she received her bachelor's of arts in English Literature with an emphasis in science writing.

Stille's storied career began at Encyclopedia Britannica from 1967-1968 where she was the production editor. She moved on to become a staff editor at Compton's Encyclopedia and Year Book from 1968-1971 and editor at World Book Yearbook and Science Year publications from 1971-1978.

She moved to Science Year exclusively in 1978 to become associate editor in charge of the entire publication and stayed there until 1991. Following those positions, she became the managing editor at World Book Annuals Editorial Department 1991-1994 and executive editor from 1994-1996. She served as editor-in-chief of World Book Annuals and Online Services in 1996 until her retirement in 2002.

While at World Book she interviewed many famous people, including then President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office.

Among the many books she wrote were Extraordinary Women in Science and Extraordinary Women in Medicine (both for high school students) and more than 150 science and technology children's books. She also wrote travel articles for Outlines newspaper and later Windy City Times over a 20-year period.

She was the chair of Women Employed from 1973-1976 and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association Science Writers.

While at Women Employed, Stille worked to ensure that Chicagoland area corporations provided equal pay and better working conditions for women.

Stille is survived by Marquard and many close friends and cousins.

"Darlene was active in the formation and expansion of the IGLTA [International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association] travel organization," said Marquard. "She attended all the trips and conventions … busily taking notes so that she could return to Chicago and write/edit her articles for Outlines and later Windy City Times. She made sure that all details that would interest LGBT travelers were included. We were invited to join IGLTA due to our travel business, Envoy Travel, in its second formative year and remained active for over 25 years. I was fortunate to enjoy Darlene's wit and fun-loving personality for 40 years. Whether it was a Halloween party or a protest march she always kept the crowd entertained. Her personality was larger than life and I will miss her terribly."

"Darlene and Cynthia were major donors to LCCP from the beginning," said Jessica Halem, former executive director of the Lesbian Community Care Project, then known as the Lesbian Community Cancer Project. "There was not an event or fundraising appeal that did not include them helping make it successful with their time and money. But even more important was their friendship over the years which helped all of us working on staff and the board keep moving forward."

"When I worked with Darlene at World Book from 1996-2003, she was instrumental in helping the company successfully navigate a harrowing time for reference book publishers," said long-time friend and former co-worker Jennifer Parello. "This was after the advent of the CD-ROM encyclopedia, which destroyed the market for huge—and hugely expensive—print encyclopedia sets in the home. And the rapid rise of the Internet during these years posed an even greater threat by delivering information very quickly and at no cost. Darlene took the lead in creating an aggressive editorial strategy that was responsible for World Book's first digital products. Her efforts were responsible for helping World Book survive in an environment that destroyed many other publishers."

"Darlene lived a life that was shaped and molded by love," said Rev. Townes. "For her, love was not a possession. Nor was it something you hoarded or withheld if you disagreed with folks. It was not something you use as a weird measuring stick of who gets counted as human and worthy of our respect and love. The love Darlene knew and shared was certainly not about counting up who can be tossed aside as expendable or irredeemable or simply unacknowledged with disdain and arrogant fear. She definitely did not slot people into roles that never change. To be around her, you knew that you were with someone who was deeply invested in creating a just world home for all of us to live in."

"I met Darlene over 40 years ago when we were involved with the now-defunct Good Shepherd Parish MCC," said long-time friend Tom Myles. "In those days, LGBT people were unwelcome in most Christian churches, so we had our own, and it was one of the few places where gays and lesbians could meet in a safe setting not involving alcohol. When Cynthia introduced us, I learned we were in the same industry, publishing, and worked for companies who worked together, so there was a professional connection as well as a church connection. We became good friends after meeting occasionally for lunch. When they moved to Michigan our get-togethers and parties (including an Ellen-Comes-Out-On-TV Party) ended.

"Darlene was one of the most perceptive people I ever met. She was very intelligent, quick to analyze a situation and went out of her way to make those around her feel comfortable and welcome. She and Cynthia had many women friends, but they both made sure that they also had men friends and straight friends. I like to think this says something about who Darlene was, and why her relationship with Cynthia lasted an amazing four decades. She was open-minded, understanding, willing to listen to others' points of view, patient, caring, non-judgmental and perceptive. I will miss her very much."

Visitation was Nov. 2 at Sommerfeld Smith Funeral Home in New Buffalo, Michigan and the funeral took place Nov. 3 at St. Andrews by the Lake Episcopal Church in Michigan City, Indiana. Townes led the service with assistance by Rev. Michael Cooper of MCC Illiana.

Marquard has asked that memorials be sent to the Beneficiary Ruszkowski Educational Fund, c/o Fifth Third Bank, 1 W. Buffalo St, New Buffalo, MI 49117.


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