MARIE FLORASTINE KING really wasn't Diana Ross' twin sister, separated at birth.

But she got a kick out of imagining such a relationship, because she was a big fan of the Motown singer and her group, the Supremes.

"You could not convince her that she and Diana Ross were not twins separated at birth," her family wrote in a tribute. "At family get-togethers, Marie and middle sister, Mary, good good-naturedly contested for the role of Miss Ross."

Marie, who worked as a Bell Telephone operator and for banks in the city, a busy Baptist churchwoman whose goal was to pass on her faith to the youth, and a devoted family matriarch, died Dec. 2 of cancer. She was 81 and lived in Aston, Delaware County.

When Marie's oldest daughter became pastor of Christ Christian Community Church in Media, mom pitched in to help, sharing her gifts, skills and talents with the church community. She became head of the Trustee Board and passed on her love of arts and crafts to the youth. She also used her computer skills to make fliers and church bulletins.

Marie was born in Philadelphia, the second oldest of the four children of William Purnell and Marie Elizabeth Seymour. Marie and her siblings were raised by their mother and stepfather, the late John K. Robinson.

Marie began her spiritual journey at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, where she attended Junior Worship Services. She was baptized there and sang on the Young Adult Choir. She took lessons and learned to play the piano at St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Marie graduated from West Philadelphia High School and shortly thereafter met Allen Lloyd King. They were married on Sept. 27, 1958.

She took a job as a telephone operator for Bell Telephone, then worked for local banks, retiring in 1996.

Marie could never seem to get enough education. She took classes at Widener University, and later enrolled at Penn State University, where she earned an associate's degree as a paralegal.

Marie was a woman of many talents. She was skilled with a needle and thread and enjoyed sewing clothing for herself and her family. She also mastered the intricacies of computers, and used them to create greeting cards, which she used not only to observe holidays and birthdays, but to convey her concern for sick and shut-in members of her church.

Music was always a joy to Marie. In addition to pretending to be a long-lost sister of Diana Ross, she loved to dance and was skilled at the Bop, the Slop and the Robot.

But the main thrust of Marie's life was religion. She made sure her children attended church services, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, even though her son, Allen Jr., needed a bit of coaxing.

She would drive the kids 40 miles round-trip to get them to and from her church, Mount Carmel, at 57th and Race streets.

Marie was extremely generous "in opening the doors of her home and the cupboards of her kitchen to others," her family said. She was an outstanding hostess and always made visitors feel welcome. "There were no strangers," her family said.

Besides her husband and son, she is survived by two daughters, Stacy Chaney and Dana Butler; two sisters, Mary Byarms and Joyce Robert; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services: 11 a.m. tomorrow at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 5732 Race St. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m.

Burial will be in Glenwood Memorial Gardens, Broomall.