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Passenger: Marion Britton

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Bearing cards, carefully chosen gifts and delectable pastries, Marion Britton never missed a birthday or anniversary and never failed to leave loved ones with full bellies and smiling faces.

Marion Britton
dot.gifAssistant regional director, U.S. Census Bureau, New York City, 53, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brother, Paul; half-brother, John
She and Waleska Martinez were traveling together to a computer operations conference in San Francisco

"My son used to say she was his fairy godmother," said her brother, the Rev. Paul Britton of Huntington Station, N.Y. "On any holiday, Marion was like a bag lady, pulling out gifts that were precious and something delicious -- Italian or German pastries or New York cheesecakes she'd bring along."

Even after developing borderline diabetes, "she loved to watch other people enjoying the things she could not."

To satisfy nephew Wren Britton's taste in punk music, she haunted tiny Manhattan shops until she found new releases by obscure groups he loved. At the U.S. Census Bureau's regional office in Manhattan, where she was assistant director, she ordered in lunch for the office on busy days.

In her early days with the bureau, she'd drop in on homes to ask government-sanctioned questions, then return to drop off packets of food or clothing for struggling families.

Britton grew up in Queens and worked as an accountant before becoming an enumerator, or door-to-door questioner, for the 1980 census. She loved getting paid to talk to people, and census officials hired her permanently after noting her ability to draw out information. Over the next 21 years, she rose to the regional office's second-highest spot.

Outside the office, she socialized with friends at breakfast gatherings and joined a dining group that roamed the city in search of gourmet dinners. She chose her stylish clothes with care and lined her cozy apartment with eclectic furniture, teddy bears and dolls.

A workaholic, Britton could be blunt, and people who didn't know her well didn't always welcome her frankness, said her boss, Regional Director Lester A. Farthing. But her refusal to back down from a conviction often prompted co-workers "to take another look and to find a better way to do things."

"She could use stinging language and she'd let you know if she thought you were wrong. She could be bitchy -- I was the brunt of it for many years," her brother recalled. "But she did it for your own good. She was kind-hearted and truthful, and you always knew where you stood."

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