Marlen Lloyd Tanner, 91, passed away on March 11, 2017, at Legend Oaks Healthcare in Ennis, Texas. Prior to entering Legends, he lived on his farm in Maypearl, Texas.
Marlen, or “M.L.”, was born on Christmas Eve 1925 in Jacksonville, Texas to parents, Ella Anna Collins and William Leonard Tanner. He is survived by his three sons, Merle, Marshall, and Martin; daughters-in-law, Cynthia and Dianne; grandchildren, Dustin, Vanessa, Lilah, and Michael. His wife Laura Alice (Hess) Tanner, preceded him in death. They were married on March 31, 1951, until her tragic death in a car accident on August 19, 1973.
Marlen grew up the child of a single mother on the tough streets of Dallas’ Fair Park district during the Great Depression. Those experiences shaped a man who time and again demonstrated resilience against adversity. He dropped out of high school at age seventeen to proudly serve his country in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. In 1954, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana. He continued his education and graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas with a Masters in Electrical Engineering in 1965. His passion for electronics and gadgetry extended beyond his education and career. In the mid-sixties, when Dallas Cowboy games were frequently blacked-out, Marlen built a budget-conscious antenna of two-by-fours and chicken wire, mounting the twenty-plus-foot tall monstrosity on the roof of his Garland home to catch the broadcast signal from Waco. The Tanner family were plausibly one of only a few homes in the Dallas area regularly viewing these games from their living room. To those who knew him best, it seemed his ingenuity knew no bounds. He also built a device that, when paired with his truck’s ham radio, could connect to Southwestern Bell’s switchboard and act like a car phone. This was in the early seventies, decades before cell phones were as commonplace as they are now. Even long into retirement, and with failing health, he could recite any formula from memory when his grandson quizzed him from a calculus book. He wasn’t stumped. Not once.
Though you could have called him a carpenter, entrepreneur, farmer, land surveyor, licensed ham radio operator, mechanic, licensed general aviation pilot, plumber, rancher, soldier, or a teacher at one time in his life or another, he is, perhaps, best-remembered for his work as an electrical engineer. He was employed by various DFW area aeronautical companies in the fifties through the seventies as an aerospace and defense antenna design engineer. He was a member of the engineering team that developed a communications antenna system that NASA took to the moon and back during the Apollo Program from 1969 to 1972. He was, by all accounts, a true renaissance man.
As per his wishes, Marlen was cremated. A family memorial service was held at the Corine Cemetery outside Jacksonville, Texas.