She earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 1949 at Bryn Mawr college (in Pennsylvania) and a master's in physics from the University of Minnesota a few years later.
She married a fellow nuclear physicist, Sheldon Softky, and started a family in the Felton Gables neighborhood of Menlo Park in 1961. When government cutbacks shuttered Sheldon's research work, she took two part-time jobs in addition to raising two small boys: executive secretary of the Environmental Quality Coordinating Council and part-time reporter for the Country Almanac, a job she kept for 40 years.
Those jobs exposed her to the issues and people involved in local environmental protection and land-use planning. She was involved with the founding of the Committee for Green Foothills and the Peninsula Open Space Trust, and proudly showed off many parcels of parkland (Edgewood Park, Coal Mine Ridge, Bair Island, and various wetlands) that were acquired by the sustained and concerted efforts of her friends. The most prominent, Windy Hill, a favorite family gathering-spot, was visible from her room at The Sequoias in Portola Valley where she lived the last eight years.
As a reporter, she was proud to have interviewed world-class scientists, business people, diplomats, even royalty, along with storied local old-timers, and blended their individual personalities into her reportage of their accomplishments.
Sheldon died in 1993 and her son Ed in 2008. She is survived by her son Bill of Menlo Park and two grandchildren.
Anyone who knew Marion is welcome to the "Remembering Marion Softky" gathering at her family house on Sunday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m. (Please RSVP by email if you were contacted that way; otherwise contact firstname.lastname@example.org directly.)
Donations in her name to the Peninsula Open Space Trust are appreciated in lieu of flowers.