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Marilyn Avruskin remembered for love of nature

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Marilyn Avruskin loved nature – hiking, gardening, bird watching or just observing the wildlife from her riverfront property overlooking Mill River were activities that brought her joy, according to her family. The longtime Rockville Centre resident and former South Nassau hospital nurse died from cancer on Dec. 13, 2020, at the age of 82.

Born Margaret Marilyn Haslam in 1938 in Montreal, Canada, Avruskin spent her childhood swimming in the lakes and developing a love of the outdoors. She received her nursing degree in 1959 from St. Helen’s School in Dunham and began working at Montreal General Hospital, where she met endocrinologist Dr. Theodore Avruskin. They married in 1962, immigrated to Boston in 1964 and had three daughters before settling in Rockville Centre, where they lived from 1970 to 2019. It was in the village, her daughter Carla Avruskin said, where she “carved out a life of dedication to helping others.”

She worked as a nurse at Mount Sinai South Nassau and at Dr. Paul Cooperman’s Franklin Intermediate Medical Care, and was heavily involved in the Girl Scouts, serving as troop leader as well as county treasurer for the volunteer organization.

She guided scouts in primitive camping, survival skills, and “a sense of societal responsibility” through visits to group and senior homes, plus community improvement projects, according to the obituary, and also enjoyed traveling the world with her husband. At the time of life when most retire, Avruskin instead took on running her husband’s private medical practice in Brooklyn, although they left early on Fridays to hit the ballroom dancing scene, enjoying many years performing in dance competitions.

“Nothing made her happier than time spent outdoors cultivating lovely gardens on the property,” Carla said. “When she couldn’t get outside, she’d peek out the windows to track the lawn action – birds and the mischievous squirrels trying to get at their feeders, wild bunny rabbits who’d come to nibble on her tomato and cucumber plants and she’d laugh and shake her head about all their antics.

“She’d drag anyone around outside for daily walks around the neighborhood, educating in an easy way about the surroundings by pointing out plants, trees, a certain bird call, a insect’s behavior,” Carla added. “She always found nature a miraculous joyful experience and that was utterly contagious.”

Avruskin was a Girl Scout troop leader for 40 years in Nassau County, known county-wide for her dedication to the outdoor experience. She did not fully retire until she was diagnosed with cancer at age 77.

“Marilyn was such a great influence on all the Girl Scouts and leaders,” Jayne Zimmerman, a longtime friend and fellow troop leader, said in an email. “Every time we went camping she was our first aid person, too. She was a traditional Girl Scout in every way and knew all the ceremonies and songs. She helped many girls get their Gold Award (the highest accolade, based on leadership and volunteerism action), including my daughter. Marilyn was the best Girl Scout there ever was and an amazing woman, a warm and caring person, always ready to help, never said no.”

Linda Bosco took over the position of county treasurer after Avruskin stepped down from the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, and said she was always there to answer any questions.

“She would tell me stories about all the trips she did with her scouts,” Bosco recalled. “Council kept information on index cards of all the jobs held, ceremonial pins given and awards received over the years of service and I remember when I saw Marilyn’s card, it was completely filled out front and back. I found her so interesting to talk with; she was a remarkable woman. She never complained, and had a lasting effect on so many young girls as an inspiration who taught them valuable lessons.” 

Marilyn and Ted sold their “dream home” and relocated to Oregon in 2019.

“My parents had a love that was truly remarkable and heart-warming to witness,” Carla said. “They treated each other with great respect, kept an easy humor, and never went to bed mad. They truly enjoyed spending time together. Even into their 80s Mom and Dad would go for long walks at Hempstead Lake State Park, or the boardwalk of Jones Beach, always holding hands.”

In addition to her daughter Carla and husband Ted, Marilyn is survived by daughters Tara and Andrea, and grandchildren Max, Westin and Parker. Memorial on hold due to pandemic. To honor Marilyn, mask up and go hiking. Donations directed to The Audubon Society. Visit everloved.com/life-of/margaret-avruskin/

“I lucked out -- she was the best mom,” Carla said. “She was inspiring to know, a ton of fun, had such a big heart, was thoughtful and conscientious, and always put extra effort into everything. In my adulthood she was my best friend.”