Obituary: Marjorie Fierst
Marjorie Fierst, long time resident of Montclair, died on Dec. 4, 2019, after a long decline with dementia. She was 81.
She was born on Sept. 4, 1938, in Saranak Lake, N.Y., to James and Gertrude Stalbird. She attended Saranak Lake High School and Green Mountain Junior College in Poultney, Vt. After moving to NYC, she continued her college education at Hunter College. Mrs. Fierst worked at ABC News, and for many years did temp work, but, in 1970, Olympia Dukakis and Louis Zorich were gathering a group of actors to form a company. They were old friends of Mrs. Fierst's, and she heard the call, quit her temp jobs, and became an actress.
At that time, Montclair was suffering empty storefronts and white flight. A group of prominent Montclairites urged the Whole Theatre Company to make its home in downtown Montclair, understanding that the future of the town could be stabilized and revitalized by artists - as had been the town’s tradition. Mrs. Fierst and her husband Gerald Fierst, and the company of 16 couples, settled in Montclair in 1970. The Whole Theatre Company, which eventually became a full League of Regional Theatre contract, was initially, the first Actors Equity Developmental Contract in the nation, setting the precedent for companies across America. The contract was negotiated by Marjorie and Louis Zorich as the WTC representatives.
When Mrs. Fierst decided to change careers again in her 40s, she used her creativity and talent for organization, as well as her love of talking and giving advice, to become a counselor. Returning to Hunter College, she received a MS in Rehabilitation Counseling and worked at Straight and Narrow dealing with substance abuse and the growing AIDS epidemic. She eventually moved on to St Joseph’s Medical Center, where she was the Employment Assistance Counselor for many years.
Upon retirement she read, became active with he Unitarian Church’s anti-racism committee, and, of course, loved taking her granddaughter Anjel to Music Together and other activities. She was a member of the Union Congregational church in Upper Montclair. Mrs. Fierst is survived by her husband Gerald, her son Max, and her granddaughter Anjel, by her sister Ruth Ann and her husband PJ Benedietti.
Funeral services were held at home. Donations in her memory can be made to the Alzheimers Association of New Jersey.