Marjorie Elliott Sypher was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1926. Her parents were Gideon Colin Fraser Elliott Smith and Mary Marjorie Sypher.
Gideon Elliott, a civil engineer and lawyer, held some of the highest political and diplomatic positions in Canada and was named a Royal Counselor. His wife had been a teacher in Manitoba and earned a degree in music and singing from the Conservatory of the University of Toronto. Marjorie had a very happy childhood with her parents and her brother Roy Fraser Elliott, a renowned Canadian lawyer and industrialist. The Elliott Sypher family lived in Ottawa and owned a country house on the banks of the Gatineau River, in the province of Quebec.
In 1947, Marjorie met Daniel Oduber Quirós in Montreal, where he was studying philosophy after obtaining his law degree from the University of Costa Rica. His academic achievements impressed Marjorie, especially in philosophy, where he far surpassed his Canadian peers from McGill University.
They met again in Paris, where Daniel held a diplomatic position and was studying to get his doctorate in philosophy from the Sorbonne University.
From their very first meeting, Daniel and Marjorie shared deep intellectual concerns. During their courtship and throughout their marriage, reading was one of the activities that bound them the most. They tried to keep abreast of current events in philosophy, politics, sociology, arts, and culture in general.
Marjorie and Daniel got married at the Canadian embassy in Paris on May 13, 1950. Marjorie was 23 and Daniel was 28. A few years later, they had a Catholic wedding ceremony in Coronado, with Archbishop Benjamín Núñez blessing their union in Costa Rica.
The newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Fornells, in the Spanish province of Girona. From 1953 to 1955, Daniel was the special ambassador of Costa Rica to Europe, residing in Paris. In 1958, they returned to Costa Rica, and Daniel was elected deputy from 1958 to 1962. Early on, Marjorie joined the Costa Rican political network, and by 1958, she introduced a project to Congress that became the National Commission for Education Loans (CONAPE).
Daniel became the foreign affairs minister from 1962 to 1964 and president of the Republic from 1974 to 1978. Some of his major achievements include the commencement of the construction of the current Daniel Oduber International Airport now know as the Guanacaste Airport, foreshadowing the vast tourist development of Guanacaste around the Gulf of Papagayo. His most enduring accomplishment was the creation of the National System for Conservation Areas, as well as the inauguration of the first 13 national parks as President of the Republic.
As the first lady of Costa Rica, Marjorie’s first effort was to secure a grand piano for the composer Benjamín Gutiérrez, who in turn gave it to the School of Musical Arts of the University of Costa Rica.
Perhaps her main and most fruitful activity as the first lady, to which she dedicated countless hours, was the development of a program for rural libraries, created with the support of the Association of Diplomatic Ladies. For the implementation of the program, large quantities of children’s books were purchased – bound editions, in large print, and with colorful illustrations – and they were distributed to rural schools, accompanied by colorful shelves and soccer balls.
The state contributed resources to the program, but to raise additional funds, Marjorie and her colleagues organized fairs, exhibitions, and other activities. Throughout Daniel’s administration, Marjorie visited about 1,300 schools in the country’s most remote areas and provided each of them with a library. On these tours, she used various means of transportation as some places she had to reach by horse, plane, helicopter, and even raft. The last of these visits took place on May 7, 1978, the day before the end of the presidential term.
Her interest in nature led her to participate in various conservation initiatives, including the preparation of the project that resulted in the 1977 reforestation law. The renowned ornithologist, Alexander Skutch, dedicated his book « Birds of Costa Rica » to her.
As the first lady, she also had to perform protocol functions and host distinguished guests. The visit of Their Majesties, the kings of Spain, Juan Carlos I and Sofía, in September 1977, was particularly relevant. The Spanish monarch awarded Marjorie the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic.
After Oduber’s presidential term, Marjorie continued to work on library programs for high schools and, with personal funds, donated many books to libraries. With her children, she also created a program to promote classical music at the National Library.
She shared with Don Daniel a passion for archaeology, and together they formed a significant collection, which they donated in 1987 to the National Museum with funds for the corresponding exhibition area. Marjorie was also very interested in plants and flowers, especially orchids.
After Daniel’s death in 1991, Marjorie remained in Costa Rica and dedicated her time to her children Luis Adrian and Anna Maria, collaborated with the press on various topics of interest, and developed a project that became the National Museum of the province of Guanacaste, where she became an honorary citizen.
Marjorie passed away peacefully at her home in San José on April 16, 2015. She will always be admired and respected by Costa Rican citizens and will be remembered as a discreet, intelligent, and cultured first lady.
Her admiration for Costa Rica was undeniable and was reflected in her steadfast commitment to contributing to the well-being of its people. Marjorie’s legacy is imbued with the richness and diversity of Costa Rican culture that she embraced with unwavering love. Her dedication to Costa Rica was more than a duty tied to her status as First Lady; it was a profound and sincere declaration of love for a country that held a special place in her heart.
Marjorie Elliott left an indelible legacy in the hearts of Costa Ricans, and her life is a poignant testament to her admiration and deep love for Costa Rica and its wonderful people.
In the eyes of grateful citizens, she will always remain as a shining star that illuminated the path of culture, education, and unconditional love for a country that captured her heart.