Tree to be planted in memory of Rubin’s life and work on Earth Day in Palisades Park
By Keemia Zhang
Peace activist and artist Marissa Rubin is set to be honored by the planting of a tree – referred to as the Tree of Gratitude, in Palisades Park in memory of her life and work on Earth Day (April 22). It will be a ‘sister tree’ to the Children’s Tree of Life in the same park, planted in 1983 and largely organized by Marissa, who passed away on July 28, 2022.
“No one is more deserving of a living memorial,” her husband, activist Jerry Rubin, says. The couple were wed at the Children’s Tree of Life in 1983 in a combined wedding-peace rally, with 400 guests in attendance invited by public flier. The couple first met at a Santa Monica dance studio in 1982, and became inseparable as “peace partners” until her death from stage 4 pancreatic cancer last July. “There was no ‘are you seeing other people’, this or that.” Jerry reminisces. “We were just together.”
The Rubins lived in the Ocean Park neighborhood for over forty years, working on projects and protests to help better the community – including Tree Hugging Day, the No Toy Guns Campaign, and the ongoing effort to save the Muir Woods mural. In the aftermath of the 2003 Farmers Market crash, Marissa worked “hours late at night” to create artwork for posters in memory of the victims.
Marissa also self-published a poetry book, titled ‘Word Honey’, with proceeds going to a local animal shelter. Prior to her marriage, she organized an artistic program named ‘ClayDance’, where artists could express themselves through dance while sculpting, and taught art classes for seniors at the Camera Obscura Art Lab. Jerry admits that, if not for his wife, he “would have given up years ago” as an activist, “if she wasn’t just right there, encouraging me in every way, encouraging her friends, and everybody she came in contact with. I’m so, so grateful.”
Marissa, who attended graduate school at UCLA, worked as an art therapist with troubled adolescents at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. When she was diagnosed and admitted for treatment to UCLA Santa Monica, she was treated for free – “they were so thankful for the work she had done,” says her husband.
During her lifetime, she received a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Assembly for her work and volunteerism. “She had many causes. Environment, art, peace, and cancer.” Jerry says. At the end of her life, his wife insisted that friends who wanted to donate allocate their proceeds to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
A plaque will commemorate the Tree of Life’s planting, delivered from Marissa’s home state of New York. Rubin hopes that prospective attendees for the April ceremony include Blue Bus Drivers – “they just loved her”, Jerry says – city council members and Mayor of Santa Monica Gleam Davis. The Tree of Life planting was coordinated by Urban Forester Matthew Wells, a friend of the Rubins.
Members of the public are invited to take part in the Tree of Life planting ceremony at noon on April 22, near the Santa Monica Pier Cannon.