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On November 22, 2023, at the age of 85, Marilyn Jean Mertens passed away peacefully while surrounded by her loving family. Marilyn was the oldest of two children, born to Les and Margaret Bettinelli on April 11, 1938. She was raised in Petaluma on a dairy farm and graduated high school from St. Vincent’s, where she met the love of her life, George Mertens. Marilyn and George married on July 14,1956 and together they established the Mertens Dairy in Sonoma in 1972. Her strength and determined spirit fueled her in every aspect of her life as the matriarch of her family - a loving wife, sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother and friend.
Marilyn was a lifelong dairy partner to George and in those years she had many roles. Marilyn ran many aspects of their business and pursued many of their dreams. When you came to the dairy, Marilyn made sure that everyone was not only well fed, but welcomed with open arms. While Marilyn was a staple at the dairy, so was her kitchen table. Sitting at that table with her was where the little parts of life became the biggest part of her story. She was always a great host, lovingly bringing numerous family members together through her wonderful gatherings. Some of the most anticipated and memorable events at the dairy were Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations. These festivities became an annual ritual and were attended by dozens of family, friends and extended family.
The daily dairy responsibilities provided Marilyn with a full-time job that she was so proud of, however, her primary focus always pointed to family. She successfully raised six children, for whom she felt fierce pride. She was dedicated to their livelihood. Any time anyone had a problem, she took time to listen and then offered support and guidance. This extended to her children, grandchildren, their partners, and spouses. Her guidance and support truly reached anyone who sat at her infamous kitchen table with a willing ear. Marilyn not only offered advice, but was always there with a helping hand. She would gladly take on the responsibility to arrange any party, even if that party meant showing up with Mary’s pizza to strip wallpaper off walls, paint or set up a new home. Every time there was a new baby she was there as soon as she could get in the door. She loved her many grandchildren and was thrilled to be upgraded to Grandma with the Cows to her great grandchildren. She was quick with a laugh or a hug; Marilyn had unbounded love for her family.
Marilyn was also a longtime active member and supporter of the Sonoma Valley Tennis Association. Marilyn and George enjoyed playing tennis so much that George built her a tennis court behind their home, which later became the perfect playground for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her passion for tennis is still present in our community today as her advocacy led to the building of the public courts in Maxwell Park.
Marilyn is survived by her husband George F. Mertens, Jr., her brother Ret. Judge Bill Bettinelli, her children Fred (Roxanne), Wendy, Jim (Amy), Steve (Julie), (the late) Tom (Chris) and Mike (Lisa), her 19 grandchildren Forrest Mertens, Freddie Mertens, Josh Mertens, Melissa Gilardi, Lesliann Ehrensvard, Nick Mertens, Stevie Mertens, Jenna Friedrichs, Felicia Davis, Carissa Grimm, Jessica Perry-Prieto, Kayla Ottoboni, Jarrod Mertens, Courtney Burrill, Fallon Bland, Dustin Mertens, Amanda Mertens, Tristan Mertens, and Colton Mertens, and was lovingly referred to as “Grandma Cows” by her 40 great-grandchildren.
A visitation for Marilyn will be held at Duggan’s Mission Chapel, 525 West Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476 on Friday, December 1st, from 4:00PM to 5:00PM.
The rosary will immediately follow beginning at 5:00PM.
A funeral mass will be held at 11:00AM St. Francis Solano Catholic Church, 469 3rd Street West, Sonoma, CA 95476 on Saturday, December 2nd, 2023.
A private family gathering will be held directly after the mass.
Contributions in Marilyn’s memory can be sent to Queen of the Valley Medical Center;
Queen of the Valley Foundation.