Brattleboro, VT – Ezra Francis Marder has given his life an enduring gift to the world. He was a dazzling and generous spirit, a sidewalk turner, a poet, an actor, an artist, a musician, a writer and a lover of family, friends, dancing and food.
Born November 22, 2004 in Brooklyn, New York, Ezra grew up in Brooklyn and spent his summers in Brattleboro with his grandparents. He was the beloved brother of Asa Marder and the son of Liza Cassidy and Darius Marder, a loving friend to many, and a treasured grandson, cousin and nephew. He died on Saturday November 27, 2021 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, after a long illness.
Benevolent, intuitive and deeply seeing, Ezra demanded of himself and sought total authenticity in others. He began his life as Esther, but when he realized his true identity was male, he boldly entered into that truth. When asked towards the end of his life about his early life as Esther, he said “I’m proud of my whole story”, that was vintage Ezra. He insisted on naming all the difficult things. Towards the end of his life, he spoke openly about the approach of death, offering those who loved him the comfort of mourning with him.
Ezra loved large family gatherings. He was a tireless instigator of games and amusement. He coaxed everyone on the karaoke stage, even the most reluctant performers, and rewarded their bravery with hugs and loving laughter. It was impossible to feel uncomfortable around Ez, a friend said, as he projected no expectation, offering only the warm embrace of his pure-hearted presence.
His compassion was boundless towards friends and strangers. Even as a young child, the sight of an elderly person struggling with a mundane task on the street could bring him to tears.
Among Ezra’s great loves was dancing. At weddings and other celebrations, he would dance for hours, lighting up the room with a style all his own, alive with movement and outrageous invention in an infectious expression of pure joy.
Symptoms of the disease that Ezra endured for years included paralysis and an incessant and excruciating pain disorder. In the midst of unimaginable suffering, he never stopped loving the world. He was unfailingly kind and courteous to his family, friends and caregivers, many of whom described meeting Ezra as life changing. He freely expressed his love and gratitude to visitors, often going beyond his limits to welcome everyone with courage and compassion. His sense of humor also persisted. When his brother, Asa, who is over six feet tall, recently used the word “turnip,” Ezra replied, “I’m the turning point. You are the one going up. Such inversions delighted him. As he told his mother and father, “Life is too long for bad soup.”
Ezra was a maker and an actor. He enjoyed drawing and painting, making videos with his friends, writing poetry and prose, playing guitar and writing songs. An accomplished student of American Sign Language and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he appeared in the Oscar-winning film Sound of Metal, directed by his father. He was fascinated by the Norwegian wood of Haruki Murakami. He deeply admired Charles Bukowski, appreciating the writer’s courage in bringing to light human difficulties that often go unnoticed. He felt a similar connection to Kurt Cobain for publicly sharing his struggle with unresolved digestive issues that influenced his artistic expression, as similar issues did for Ezra. He loved Radiohead, the movie Tootsie, the work of director Hayao Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibli, especially Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which Ezra said offered a deep understanding of life and the experience of face death. He adored actor Alan Rickman (especially in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility) and, above all, David Bowie, whose beady eye and lack of convention deeply inspired him.
Ezra attended poetry camp during the summers and wrote his own poetry – some serious and some quirky and humorous. He was a committed musician. He studied taiko drumming with his brother at Brooklyn Walford School and later took up drums, eventually learning to sing while playing the drums, a rare and difficult skill. Ezra also deeply enjoyed food. He was a cook with an inventive twist that included chickpea and zucchini fritters and delicious chocolate banana nut butter glazed sandwiches.
Ezra loved animals. His dog Marnie – half-blind, neurotic, perfect – was particularly dear to his heart, and Ezra spent long hours quietly holding and petting her.
Above all, Ezra was a loving conduit and guardian of the spiritual and the real. As he wrote towards the end of his life:
“When I can’t do it, I put up with it, when I can’t take it, I fly away.”
Ezra is survived by his brother and mother and father; his grandparents Larry, Marilyn and Kaye Cassidy and Lauri Marder, Efrem Marder and Marit Cranmer; his cousins Calvin and Cassidy Stebbins; and her aunts and uncles Abraham, Gabriel, Ursa, Benjamin, Kristin and Christopher.
A service and celebration of Ezra’s life will be held in the spring in southern Vermont.
Published by The Recorder on February 21, 2022.