Family holds three-generation reunion at SIU’s Touch of Nature to watch eclipse

Three generations of the John Carl Marlin family will be attending the eclipse at SIU. Back row, from left, Diane and Jack Marlin of Urbana, Illinois, where Diane is mayor. Middle row: John Marlin of Washington, D.C., and Kate Marlin, and Jeff Slutter, both of Champaign, Illinois. Front row: Maggie Slutter, Jayce Nelson and Logan Nelson, all of Champaign, Illinois.

When the midday sun goes black during the April 8 eclipse, there’s no place Doris Marlin and family members from far and wide would rather be than Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

About 30 family members, comprising three generations ages 4 to 74, will gather at SIU’s Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center from all over the United States – Colorado, Maryland, Wisconsin, Missouri and other locales.

“The eclipse is such a positive, uniting event, and I’m so excited that our family is going to be able to experience it together,” Doris Marlin , of Silver Spring, Maryland, said. “I think it’s wonderful that we will all be able to see this eclipse together and then perhaps the little ones and even the next generation up can perhaps gather again for the next U.S. total eclipse in 2044 and recall this weekend we’re spending together, making connections across time. It’s very important to create memories together, and I’m so grateful we’re all getting this opportunity at Touch of Nature.”

Doris Marlin of Silver Spring, Maryland

They’re all the descendants of Odelia (Born) and John Marcinkoska/Marlin, who met and married in Murphysboro, Illinois. “Our roots are in Southern Illinois. Both sides of my family arrived from Europe in the mid-1800s and settled in Southern Illinois,” Doris said.

Her parents attended St. Andrews School and her father earned medals for his service in the Pacific as a Navy pilot during World War II. The family later moved to Peoria and later the Elgin/Chicago area, changing its surname to Marlin in 1956, but the connection to Southern Illinois remained strong. They returned frequently to visit grandparents and other relatives in the region beyond the turn of the millennium, until the last surviving aunt in the region passed away in the early 2000s.

Third time’s a charm

Doris and other family members have long been fascinated with the eclipse experience and other aspects of space.

“This is going to be my third time observing from the path of totality. There is just no experience like it. To quote from a Forbes article, ‘It’s a sensory experience like no other,’” Doris said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of this rare celestial moment in time.”

In 1999, she was living in Germany and saw the total eclipse there, a sight she found “so amazing.” By the time of the 2017 eclipse, she was residing in Washington, D.C., and sought the easiest and most inexpensive way to observe the spectacle. So she and her son flew to Atlanta and drove a couple of hours to Clemson, South Carolina.

This time around, she said she was determined to share the magnificent spectacle with as many loved ones as possible.

Beth Marlin of Colorado

“In April 2023, I began searching all around in the pathway of totality for opportunities and saw that SIU’s Touch of Nature was having a special long weekend with lodging and activities and knew that was the way to go,” she said. “Our whole group can stay together at one location, enjoy meals and other activities together, and it’s an ideal location to view the eclipse from while avoiding congested highways.”

Touch of Nature’s 2024 Solar Eclipse Weekend April 5-9 provides a complete package with lodging, activities and food. While several facilities on the beautiful grounds located along Little Grassy Lake, adjacent to the Shawnee National Forest, are sold out, some cabin spots, tent camping and a limited number of accommodations in a University Housing residence hall are available.

Along with meals and lodging at TON, participants can enjoy arts and crafts, live music, climbing opportunities, paddling on Little Grassy Lake, guided hikes and other activities. And of course, everyone will get viewing glasses to safely watch the great total eclipse, which will last a remarkable 4 minutes, 9 seconds.

Doris’ sister, Ruth Marlin Cleveland, a former middle school science teacher, is an avid star gazer, too. She will be enjoying the amenities at TON with family and some friends as well while her four other grandchildren observe from their home in Texas.

Going back

Marlin said it’s “extra meaningful” to return to TON for the eclipse after being there for a family reunion in 1993. The “Born” reunion (Marlin’s mother’s maiden name) drew about 60 family members, who stayed in the Shawnee Lodge, made countless memories and even attended a Buffalo tro, a longtime TON tradition.

1993 “Born” reunion participants included John Marlin of Urbana, Illinois; Doris Marlin of Silver Spring, Maryland; Pat Leighty of Middleton, Wisconsin; Beth Marlin of Colorado, and Meggie Wells Kean of Nebraska in front. All four adults shown will be returning to SIU for the eclipse.

Marlin was also excited after booking the family eclipse package to discover Touch of Nature’s connection to the founding of the Special Olympics and Camp Little Giant, the first university-affiliated residential summer camping program for people with physical and intellectual disabilities as she has a peripheral connection to educating and enhancing the lives of people with disabilities.

Among those planning to join Doris at TON for the eclipse are her brother John Marlin, 74, the oldest attendant, and his wife Diane, mayor of Urbana, Illinois, and three generations of their family. It’s also going to be a homecoming for Beth Marlin , a 1976 graduate of SIU with an associate degree in architecture and a bachelor’s degree in interior design. She’s driving in from Colorado while another sister, Pat Marlin Leighty, is traveling from Middleton, Wisconsin, to attend.

Four other Marlin siblings from the union of John and Odelia will be represented by various children and grandchildren, along with spouses. Kennedy Cleveland, age 4, will likely be the youngest in the group, attending with her brother, Grayson, and parents from Danville, Illinois. It’s a return visit for her father, Travis, who was at the 1993 reunion as a young boy with his brother, Ben, and parents, Ruth and Dennis Cleveland, from Dundee, Illinois.

Kennedy Cleveland, age 4, will likely be the youngest family member in attendance.

“A fourth generation will be with us in spirit as we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of our parents’ birth year, too,” Doris said.

Marlin said the first reunion was filled with fun times and memories, including Super Soaker water battles and laughter, and being able to reunite around a breathtaking event like a total solar eclipse is certain to make for once-in-a-lifetime memories for multiple generations of their family in 2024.

In addition to the festivities at TON, SIU, in partnership with NASA EDGE and Adler Planterium, is hosting Southern Illinois Crossroads Eclipse Festival April 5-8, featuring numerous activities. It culminates with Eclipse Day at Saluki Stadium, a guided experience on April 8. Tickets are available online for this event filled with special entertainment and events. Visit SIU’s eclipse website for more information.

You May Also Like

Saluki Pride: Cinzia Padovani embraces life at SIU as an international professor

As an international faculty member, Cinzia Padovani, an associate professor in radio, television and digital media, said it can be a challenge to adapt to life in a new place, but she loves the beauty of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus and working with students and her colleagues. She hopes her experience will be helpful for future junior colleagues from overseas.