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Marilyn J. Callahan

October 11, 1911 - September 7, 2021

Marilyn J. CallahanFor those who never met her, let us introduce you to our mom, Marilyn Callahan, born October 11, 1934.  Marilyn was a native Oregonian.  She grew up in Milwaukie where her family owned and managed Maynard’s Motel.  After graduating from Milwaukie Union High School, Marilyn entered Mills Women’s College in Oakland, CA at age 16 and graduated in 1955.  Later, she received a Master’s in social work from Portland State University.

Marilyn had a long and impressive career as a licensed clinical social worker. She worked in adult prisons, at juvenile corrections facilities, the Oregon State Hospital, and in private practice.  She was also a social worker at Marion County Senior Division where she advocated for and changed legislation to protect seniors.  Anyone who knew Marilyn would say she was wicked smart and relentless when it came to getting things right for her clients and right for the community.  
For years, she worked in the specialized field as a licensed therapist to sex offenders in which
part of their parole/probation requirement was weekly therapy.  At 83 years of age, Marilyn wrote and published a book SO The New Scarlet Letters: Sex Offenders, Their Treatment and Our Challenge about much of her life’s work.
Her most recent work was facilitating regular group sessions inside the Oregon State Correctional Institution as a volunteer. She created a Community Outreach program that connected community members with inmates at OSCI. This presented an opportunity for the community to reconsider what they know about the criminal justice system. At the same time, it was an opportunity for those inside prison to place their life experiences, encouraging transformation within themselves and, in doing so, serving as an engine for social change. 
While one person couldn’t do it all, Marilyn did what she could up until she died at age 86..almost 87, knocking down doors at the state capital to anyone who would listen, contacting the local media, fundraising for treatment and education in prisons, and trying to get the public to understand and fight for a stable system of discharge that aligns with the values of prison reform and restorative justice.  She fought to get housing, jobs and treatment for men and women as they transitioned back to society with the belief that therapy and rehabilitation provides safer communities and leads to less recidivism. As Marilyn wrote in her book, “There is no perfect system, but there can be a better system. Fear has put into place the Tough on Crime laws, but that hasn’t improved crime or incarceration.  The argument for rehabilitation is ever present.”

Marilyn rarely spoke about the wall of awards she received for her commitment to her community which included the 2006 Oregon chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Lifetime Recognition Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award she received at OSCI from a group she counseled for nearly 20 years.

Marilyn was married to her love, Fred Welsh, whom she spent the last 30 years devoted to, and who passed away in 2018. She was mother to Barbara Baer (Joe) , Susie Sewell (Dan) and Jeff Callahan (Maria), and grandmother to Emily Baer, Alec Baer, Grace Sewell, Camille Sewell, Danny Sewell and Avery Callahan.  She was sister to her beloved brother Bob. She was preceded in death by her first husband Lynn Callahan in 1979.

A Celebration of Life will be held in the Spring.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in honor of Marilyn to the Lewis & Clark Criminal Justice Reform Clinic or to the Capital Manor Foundation. 

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