Lisa Robin Marks

June 8, 1958 – January 19, 2020

On January 19 Lisa Marks passed away peacefully at her home in South Laguna after being diagnosed with brain cancer 2 months earlier. She was just 61 years young, with great vitality, vigor, and a voracious appetite for life.

Some called Lisa a Renaissance woman. But that would be raising the bar on the Renaissance. A prodigious polymath, a tenacious force for good, equally adept at environmental activism, Buddhist Philosophy, Pythagorean theorem, and classic rock and roll, Lisa rolled through life with an indefatigable curiosity and quest to help others. Whatever she did, she had a unique way of connecting from the heart. She was generous and inspiring to everyone, and activated our higher selves. Lisa was born in Orange County to the late Sherrie and Jerome Marks, owners of Lynbrook Hardware stores. She graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in biology, and then earned a master’s degree in mathematics from UC Berkeley

But Lisa was hardly a bookworm. She loved the outdoors – to hike, camp, surf, boogie board, bike, and take regular brisk morning swims at Table Rock. She was an avid backpacker and stargazer. It was perhaps this deep connection to the earth that made her a fierce protector of the environment.  

An earlier adaptor of permaculture principles, Lisa quickly installed rainwater catchment, edible gardens, composting, worm bins, and grey water systems in her home. And advocated for others to do the same. She fought to save the South Laguna hillside from development, and to safeguard marine habitat through the enactment of Marine Protected Areas.  She was involved with many environmental groups, but none more rewarding than Earthroots Field School, dedicated to fostering continued nature opportunities for children. As Founding President of the Board, Earthroots was the platform for Lisa to apply so many of her talents in education, philanthropy, administration, music, art, wilderness life skills, and growing food.

Lisa was also a seeker of the spiritual realm. A lifelong student of philosophy and the workings of the mind, Lisa studied various forms of Buddhism, and was also interested in the new research on psychedelic use in therapeutic treatment of PTSD, addiction, and end of life anxiety.

Lisa was a gifted multi-instrumentalist and singer with an acute love for dance. My most indelible experiences with her were on the ecstatic dance floor, where we collaborated and curated weekly dances at Neighborhood Congregational Church. Nobody was freer and more flowing than Lisa Marks. Unbridled, unencumbered, unself-conscious and totally in the flow zone of movement meditation, Lisa would rocket and gyrate across the floor, sweeping everyone into her massive energy vortex, putting the most delicious smile on our faces.

But Lisa’s greatest and certainly most enduring achievement was the gift of life and love she shared everyday with her sister Jill, who was born with a birth defect and unable to care for herself. Lisa took on the strenuous role of full-time caregiver, sacrificing her own freedoms to ensure Jill was loved, nurtured, and given real life experiences. Nothing was more beautiful than seeing them together on the beach, intertwined, and bursting with sibling love. Lisa has ensured that Jill will be lovingly cared for the rest of her life.

Lisa was nothing if not a loyal and faithful friend. She tended to her friends’ needs as if they were close family, and was eager to offer assistance — thoughtful advice especially — and brainstorming to help solve difficult personal problems. She was always keen to listen, but never too shy to speak — which made truly balanced exchanges easy to come by and deeply satisfying.

When Lisa’s many talented and nurturing friends learned of her illness, they converged to make sure her every wish for a conscious death was realized. The whole final week of her life, she appeared to be in deep peace. Her friends ministered to her needs, both physical and spiritual, singing to her, reading sacred texts and sharing messages of tribute from her community.

Lisa stands out as a deeply ethical human being who dedicated herself to walking upright and lightly on this planet. Though gentle in manner, she had a strong fire to bring to important causes and gave generously of herself to support those efforts.

She was powerfully intelligent, deeply insightful, endlessly vivacious, politically effective, musically creative, full of care for the earth and the ocean, spiritually adventurous, capable of the greatest depths of friendship and love, and a wonderful gift to her family — her sister Jill especially — and to her many devoted friends. We are all profoundly grateful that she graced our realm.

Obituary written by Billy Fried