Marilyn Root pioneered arts therapy for abused women

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Marilyn Parletta Root, who pioneered arts therapy for sexual-abuse survivors in Seattle, elevated counseling from a skill to an art, says a former colleague.

She used her interest in photography and painting to help others explore these forms and release repressed feelings. She also created a diploma program for people in her 21-week group sessions.

"Marilyn introduced the use (of fine arts) to help women in her group deal with issues of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse," said Mary Bayard, a clinical supervisor at Shepherd's Counseling Services on Capitol Hill, where Mrs. Root worked for eight years. "The women could express feelings in a safe way."

Mrs. Root died Tuesday (Feb. 6) of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. She was 61.

Born in Union City, N.J., she set her course in life when she met Richard Root in high school, married him in 1960 and supported him in his medical career.

Now chief of medical services at Harborview Medical Center and vice chairman of the University of Washington's department of medicine, Root says he was drawn by her spirit and her dedication to anything she did.

"You know the Frank Sinatra song, `I Did It My Way'? Marilyn did everything her way, and it was often a good way," he said.

Mrs. Root raised a family and earned a degree in medical technology while he was working at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Washington.

She worked in medical technology to help pay for her college education. In 1980, she earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at the University of Quinnipiac in Connecticut. In 1987, she completed a master's degree in marriage, family and child counseling at the University of San Francisco.

After moving to the Puget Sound area, she worked as a therapist and counselor at Forest Ridge School in Bellevue and at Shepherd's Counseling Service in Seattle. She was a founding member of the Community Service League of Harborview.

She also was a fine Italian chef and a skilled photographer - the latter learned from her Italian-immigrant father. She sold photographs in several shows in Seattle and Mercer Island.

When asked what she wanted people to feel when viewing her shots of barns, doorways and ponds, she typically said, "Joy."

Mrs. Root and her husband recently celebrated the 46th anniversary of their first date. Tomorrow they would have celebrated the 46th anniversary of their first school dance, her husband said.

Also surviving are sons David of Seattle, Richard of Upland, Calif., and Daniel of White River Junction, Vt.; Mrs. Root's sister, Donna Parletta Daniello of Albuquerque; and five grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Assumption Catholic Church, 3214 N.E. 62nd St., Seattle.

Remembrances may go to the Marilyn Parletta Root Scholarship Fund at Shepherd's Counseling Service, 2601 Broadway East, Seattle, WA 98102; to Project ALS, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 341, New York, NY 10011; or to Providence/Hospice of Seattle, 425 Pontius Ave. N., Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98109.