Remembering Marie Hillerman

Originally published on Celebrating New Mexico Statehood, 6/10/2016

In his 2001 memoir, SELDOM DISAPPOINTED, Tony Hillerman (1925-2008) recalls the “life-changing miracle” that was meeting his future wife, Marie Elizabeth Unzner. “All else… [was] trivial,” writes Hillerman. In October 1947, Hillerman attended a dance at the university’s Newman Center, where he saw a slender, laughing woman with enchanting eyes. Unable to stop thinking about her, he offered to help her with her English composition assignments (she was pursuing a double major in microbiology and education). Marie accepted, but only because she was attracted to Hillerman’s access to a typewriter. When the two were married in 1948, Hillerman marked the event in his memoir by writing that “the next half century … [was] colored by my happiness.” Marie Hillerman had that effect on many people.

On February 12, 2015, Marie Hillerman peacefully passed after fighting an infection. Full of grace, profoundly generous, and eminently compassionate, Marie Hillerman was a tireless advocate for and supporter of many charitable organizations, including several that worked to improve educational opportunities for underserved communities. Much of her outreach included communities and schools on the Navajo Reservation, as she shared with her husband a respect and appreciation for the Navajo people and culture.

Marie is survived by her children and their extended families, as well as her sister and her extended family. In honor of Marie's generosity, the family asks that, instead of flowers, donations be made to the Catholic Foundation, 4333 Pan American Highway NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107, or to programs that are dear to the Hillerman family at the University of New Mexico, including the Tony Hillerman Collection Fund at UNM Libraries and the Hillerman-McGarrity Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing, University of New Mexico Foundation, Inc., Two Woodward Center, 700 Lomas Blvd NE, Ste. 108, Albuquerque, NM 87102. visit the online guestbook for Mrs. Hillerman FRENCH Wyoming 7121 Wyoming Blvd. NE (505) 823-9400.