My Best Friend


Lillian Kriegel

Marilyn was my sister.  Not my biological sister but closer and more involved with me than my sisters could ever be. We shared experiences that were stimulating, boring, funny, tragic and every emotion sisters are capable of.  And, even though we were separated for so many years we still felt the closeness and love of sisters.

I will never forget the first time I saw her, when she walked into our classroom at age sixteen.  She was tall, and dignified and presented an aura of authority.  I would never have guessed that she was so young, especially since I was the oldest one in the class and terrified, imagining of what we had gotten ourselves into. 

We were Cadet nurses in the last class to be trained by the government to become Army Nurses in World War II.  Fortunately, the war had ended that summer in 1945 and after our three years of study we were free to work where ever we wanted.  The training was difficult, but for Marilyn it was a piece of cake.  She was the smartest girl in the class!

After we graduated we shared an apartment with two other nurses.  When that broke up, Marilyn and I found a basement apartment in a doctor’s house.  It was there that her culinary skills blossomed.  What I remember of that year was a fantastic party we had where Marilyn spent most of her time in the kitchen making delicious little pizza pies.  The kitchen was a draw for many of the young men we had invited.  Of course there was also much dancing and laughter, especially since her brother Donald was also invited to that party.

Our jobs dictated our next move to Newark to the Beth Israel Hospital where Fanny Katz, our Nursing Arts Instructor, was now the Director of Nurses.  She hired Marilyn as the Assistant Clinical Supervisor and I was hired as the Assistant Nursing Arts Instructor.  We spent two wonderful years at that hospital while we attended New York University at night.  After two years we each had saved enough money to either complete our Bachelors degrees or go to Europe.  Marilyn went to Europe.  How I envied her.  Her mother promised to finance the rest of her education, but I had to live with my parents in Brooklyn so that I could afford to continue my education.

Sometime during that year I became seriously depressed, but Marilyn came to my rescue.  She pulled me back and got me back on my feet.  Her sensitivity, intelligence, and compassion were extraordinary.  I was very fortunate to have such a friend.

We both found our lifelong partners in 1957.  Before then, we shared many unforgettable experiences during our vacations and work.  One summer we planned to stay at what sounded like a beautiful hotel in the Berkshire Mountains.  We did not know that this lonely mansion was converted to a hotel that year.  And when we arrived at the end of June they were not quite ready to receive guests.  But we decided to stay and ended up hanging curtains.  It was a great vacation and that is where Marilyn met Larry a few years later.

When we worked at the same hospital, I had the pleasure of observing Marilyn’s skills as a supervisor.  She was phenomenal.  She could walk into a ward that seemed to be in total disarray and within a few minutes, revised assignments and bring everything under control.

Everything she did was excellent: whether it was cooking, teaching, supervising, embroidering, working crewel, or whatever, her dedication to the task was exemplary.  And, she was my loyal friend, my sister.  The years separated us but a phone call would bring us together.  How I wished we would move to Michigan or she would move back to New Jersey.  But the memories linger and will be with me forever.  Goodbye dear friend, dear sister Marilyn.