SCRIPT OF MEMORIAL SERVICE
For Marilyn Rose Reynolds
Jack Benny Center for the Arts
Saturday, October 18, 2003
[Music – recording of “Ah, may the red rose live alway” (Stephen Foster song, recorded by Cynthia Reynolds and Richard Bower)]
Ah, may the red rose live always
To smile upon earth and sky!
Why should the beautiful ever weep?
Why should the beautiful die?
Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift
For those who fear; too long for those who grieve;
Too short for those who rejoice. But for those
Who live, Time is Eternity. Hours fly, flowers
Die, new days new ways pass by. Love stays.
Good Afternoon. For those of you who may not know me, my name is Cynthia Reynolds. Thank you for joining me and my father, Richard as we all gather together today to remember my mother, Marilyn Rose Reynolds.
We light this candle in memory of Marilyn: my wife, Cindy’s mother, grandmother to Madeleine and Julian, Sister to Sam, Billy, David and Abby, aunt, cousin, niece and friend. Her loss is felt keenly to all of us. Let this flame be a comfort to us and a reminder that her light is always with us.
So many of you had spent time with her just a few months ago, when she and my father came back to Waukegan for the joyous wedding of her niece. They had moved to Florida scarcely a year before and this was the first time they had come back to see so many of their friends and family, who they missed greatly. Mom was only 70, in really good shape – she even diligently walked 2 miles a day and everyone thought she looked great. So it was a great shock, when on the way back from this trip, my mother’s diabetes took a wild turn and she died of an attack of low blood sugar while resting in a motel in Valdosta, Georgia. I had last seen her in October, but had spoken to her the night before. Many of you had seen her only two or three days before, so, needless to say, we were all in shock.
In keeping with Jewish custom, and trying to imagine my mother’s wishes as we had no instructions, my father and I agreed to a funeral in Florida, where, by a strange twist of fate, she had only a month before made her burial arrangements. Before you start to wonder if she knew something we didn’t, let me tell you that she had arranged to be placed in a mausoleum that wasn’t to be built for 3 more years! Needless to say, we choose a different spot – one I think she would have liked – overlooking a pretty garden where she is visited daily by butterflies and hummingbirds.
So we are here today because there was no time for you all to come to Florida, and Waukegan is where she made her home and closest friends for most of her life. We are all a part of her story, so today, let us hear about her story as I know it, and then I hope you will all add your part of her story to it - so we can all know more about who she really was - so we can all celebrate her life.
Marilyn Estelle Rose was born in North Chicago, Illinois on December 30, 1932. She was daughter to Bertha and Louis Rose, immigrants from Russia, who settled there and had 7 children: Mike, Shirley, (both now deceased) Samuel, David, Billy, Abby and 11 years later, Marilyn.
She showed a talent for art at an early age, and was encouraged in this by her brother David’s wife Grace, a gifted artist who passed away only last year. Unfortunately, my mother became quite sick with an unknown ailment that enlarged her spleen, among other things. She began a series of operations and treatments but nothing seemed to work and it was thought that she would die quite early, as young as 16. But somehow, she beat the odds and made it though high school. After school, she worked at Great Lakes Navy Base and met a handsome young sailor named Richard Reynolds.
They fell in love, and when they found out he was going to be transferred out of Great Lakes, decided to get married in a hurry. I’m told my grandmother was not happy about it, but was quickly won over by my Dad’s charm and generosity. The newlyweds moved to Maryland and later to San Diego, California where three years later they had me, another event she was told she wouldn’t live through. But she beat the odds on that one as well, and I am very grateful! But she was still not well, and it was a very good thing she had married into the Navy – a number of years with some excellent doctors and many more surgeries later, her mysterious ailment was a trouble no longer. By that time we had moved to Connecticut and then Dad left the Navy, so we moved closer to my mother’s family: Chicago, then North Chicago and then finally settled back in Waukegan.
Now that she was feeling better, she was able to start making up for some lost time. She got back into art, and studied oil painting and later sculpture. She began working at the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, first as a secretary, she then found herself on the Board of Directors, where she served as secretary, treasurer and even acted as Interim Director. She made many interesting friends of artists, musicians and teachers and our house was always full of fascinating people. She used to “take on” high school-aged advanced piano students, who needed a quiet place to practice and invite them to our home, where they would alternate weekends of endless Rachmaninoff Etudes and Chopin Preludes, and I loved it! She nurtured an already growing interest in the arts for me just by having it so readily available and by allowing me to take whatever lessons I wanted (all here, at the Benny Center, of course), she and Dad set the stage for my future as an actress, opera singer and all the other things I do!
This place - the Jack Benny Center - was a huge influence on my mom’s life. It was one of the things she cherished most and talked about to her friends and family. She always thought it was so important that children get scholarships to allow them to experience the arts that my father and I decided to honor her memory by setting up the “Marilyn Rose Reynolds Visual Arts Endowment Fund” here at the Center.
In addition to the Benny Center, she had a number of other jobs. She worked as a secretary, word processor (including her own business) and worked for large companies such as Baxter Healthcare Corporation, where she made many lasting friendships.
Another place where she made lasting friendships was at Congregation Am Echod in Waukegan. She was Secretary of the Board for many years and helped out in many capacities. Her mandel bread, strudel and kugel became famous. (Her recipes have been used for many of the desserts you will find after this service.) She was sometimes known as “The Lox Box Lady” because she was so involved in that project. She was still working on the delivery routes long distance after she moved to Palm Bay, Florida a little over a year ago.
In Palm Bay, she had a new life – for the first time she had a new house, new car, new furniture, new friends and she loved it, although she did miss her Waukegan area friends and family. Originally she had intended to keep working after she moved, but after 6 months had gone by, I asked her when she was going to start and she said “Work! Are you kidding? I’m having too much fun!” She and Dad were out and about everywhere and enjoying retirement immensely. She joined the local synagogue and before she knew it, was Secretary to the Board of THAT congregation. In June, she finally felt settled in and began to take art classes again, just before she left for that fateful trip to Illinois.
That brings us full circle about her life, but what about what made her “her”. Who was she, really? A tiny person, who loved cates, art, sewing, making things with her hands? I imagine that if you had asked her, she would probably sit you down with some of her famous Mandel Bread, give you a cup of coffee in her favorite mug and then… in answer… point to the saying on it that declares “I’m short but I’m mean!” She’d tell you she was born crabby and that she wasn’t smart enough, but all the time filling you with her generosity and her uncommon sense of common sense. She used to say that all the kids thought she was mean, but then I noticed when growing up that it was MY house all the kids wanted to hang out at, and long after I’d gone away from home, my old friends from high school were still dropping by for a visit just to talk to my mom. For she knew how to talk to people. She was a woman who insisted that she was shy and had a hard time making friends, yet it is very apparent to those of us who became her friends (and I count myself one of them) that she sold herself short far too often. My parents had lived in Florida less than a year, and only three days after her death, her funeral was standing-room-only. She had made so many friends in a short time that it was actually hard for me to imagine how she did it. Someone put it to me so simply – “Marilyn had so many friends because she was that rare person who knew how to BE a friend”.
This afternoon, we celebrate her life. She would want it that way. She hated anyone to be sad. She even hated when I included sad songs in my recitals, or played a death scene in the opera. So I want to honor her by making this afternoon a joyous occasion. Yes, we are saddened by her death, but so enriched by her life. I would like to offer up a song that I recorded a few years ago in a concert and played at Mom’s funeral. It is called “The Specter of the Rose”, with music by Hector Berlioz. It is sung in French, and the words are in the person of the ghost of a rose whispering into the dreams of the girl who wore it to a ball. The rose has died but asks her not to grieve, for it has had a most enchanted life. To me both the words and the music of this song celebrate a life through death. And since the time I played it at her funeral the song has new meaning for me… the rose in this song has come to symbolize her spirit... my mother always said she was just like a Rose – thorns and all.
[Take a rose from the vase or bouquet]
Open your eyes from their light, pure dream: I am the specter of the rose you wore tonight to the ball. You plucked me still wet with silver droplets and carried me all night through the starry dance.
You who caused my death cannot stop me from returning to dance at your bed every night. But do not fear: I demand nothing, neither a mass nor a de profundis. This faint perfume is my soul and I return from Paradise!
My fate is worthy of envy, and many would give their lives for a destiny so fair. For I have my tomb upon your breast – and here on the alabaster where I am buried, a poet has inscribed with a kiss: Here lies a rose that Kings should envy!
[Music – Le Spectre de la Rose, recording by Cynthia Reynolds and Elizabeth Hastings]
In keeping with the idea of sharing my mother’s story, we will hear from some other people today who would like to offer their thoughts about how she touched their lives.
As you all know, the stock market has not been in the greatest shape lately.
It seems that, because of current economic conditions, many companies are contemplating mergers and acquisitions.
Here are a few mergers to keep an eye on:
1. Xerox and Wurlitzer (They're going to make reproductive organs.)
2. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers (The new company will be called Fairwell Honeychild)
3. Polygram Records, Warner Brothers, and Keebler (The new company will be called Poly-Warner-Cracker)
4. W.R. Grace Co., Fuller Brush Co., Mary Kay Cosmetics, and Hale Business Systems (The new company will be called Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace)
5. The 3M and Goodyear (The new company will be called MMM Good)
6. John Deere and Abitibi-Price (The new company will be called Deere Abi)
7. Honeywell, Imasco, and Home Oil (The new company will be called Honey, I'm Home)
8. Denison Mines, Alliance, and Metal Mining (The new company will be called Mine All Mine)
9. Grey Poupon and Dockers Pants (The new company will be called Poupon Pants)
10. Knott's Berry Farm and the National Organization for Women (The new company will be called Knott NOW)
11. Zippo Manufacturing, Audi, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining (The new company will be called Zip Audi Do-Da)
12. Motorola and Enron (The new company will be called MORON)
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Gandhi
Have a wonderful day.
You see, this was my Aunt .... at age 70 ....quite the e-mail queen!
Hi My name is Bernie Rose ...her nephew ..Abby's Kid. I grew up here in Waukegan not far from this spot, and was brought over weekly to my cousin Cindy's house. To play, and to be with family.
To tell you the truth I was afraid of my Aunt for the longest time! I thought she was mean! Little did I know! Later in life, I would share my photo work with her, and we'd argue politics and religion ~ she was a big Democrat, and I became a Republican. She was such a supporting ...kind person. I never realized how Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dick meant to me till I bought a house 2 blocks away! My children would often visit, and it was nice to have family close by.
She would always bake Mandel bread for me (her mothers recipe) and tell me "It's not my best batch!" If I got the rejects, then who here got the top shelf?!
Marilyn was the baby of her family, and could relate to me being the youngest.
As an artist she inspired me.
As a mother she showed me how to support your child in anything!
You see, Marilyn and Dick drove here to be at my daughter's wedding. We all had a wonderful time! She got to see many of you here and missed you all greatly! I last saw her 3 days before her passing, and am grateful for that.
She was Cindy's biggest fan! But we are ALL the biggest fans of Marilyn, and will miss her greatly.
"I find these words by an unknown source very appropriate for us today:
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Dino Salmangui (sorry if I got the last name wrong!):
[Dino spoke without a script. It was beautiful.]
The Rose family puzzle was cemented by my dear Aunt Marilyn. She was the person to make sure the glue between each puzzle piece stayed glued together. Brothers, sisters, cousins, kids each were lovingly watched over and called by Marilyn. Each family member had his/her own unique personality -- however, just like my Grandma, Marilyn would always see the best in everyone and always be available to talk and help as best she could.
She had a difficult childhood healthwise, and always felt lucky to be alive as an adult. Her supportive and kind husband, Richard, was the love of her life and when God was great enough to provide her with a child....well...she had it all! Her grandchildren, Madeline and Julian meant so much to her and she always carried recent pictures to proudly show off.
Marilyn was very artistic, had a group of diversified friends from young to old. Personally, Marilyn and I spent last Thanksgiving together with my Uncle David. We ate, laughed, talked and enjoyed our time together.
We talked on the telephone constantly . . . something I miss so much.
I am saddened by her untimely passing, but I will constantly remember the joys she brought to me personally. I will think of her often -- lovingly and know she is in a peaceful place now.
[Dad spoke without a script. He read two poems, one by a friend mom had made only two weeks before she died and one he wrote a few days after she died. He then played Beautiful Dreamer on the harmonica.
Thank you all for sharing your stories and poems with use. But Mom’s story is not complete… not without all of YOUR stories. We now invite all of YOU to share something of what it has meant to you to have known Marilyn Rose Reynolds – how you’ve experienced her companionship, wisdom, humor or encouragement in your own lives. You may wish to share a memory, or say something about how your life has been enriched by her. In this way, your stories will make her even more present among us.
(Many people shared stories about Mom at this time. They were wonderfully funny stories and at some point, I’ll try to remember them and write them down!)
Her friend Norma Murphy who could not make it here today, asked me to share this with you: “Marilyn Rose Reynolds was a cherished friend who drew people to her as a magnet draws iron filings. She enriched so many lives with her loyalty, friendship and love. Marilyn had a soothing quietness about her and her generosity of spirit endeared her to many friends. I will miss her always.”
[Music: Roses of Picardy (Recorded by Richard Slade and Rachelle Jonck)]
Let us keep this Rose in our hearts. As we come to the end of this celebration of the life of Marilyn Rose Reynolds, I invite you to join me in a poem of remembrance. Please join me after each phrase with the words, “We remember you.”
In the rising of the sun and in its going down… We remember you.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter… We remember you.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring… We remember you.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer…We remember you.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn… We remember you.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends… We remember you.
When we are weary and in need of strength… We remember you.
When we are lost and sick at heart… We remember you.
When we have joys we yearn to share… We remember you.
For mandel bread offered up in coffee cans… We remember you.
For your quiet strength… We remember you.
For knowing how to be a true friend… We remember you.
With the love you taught us… We remember you.
Yes, we remember you. So long as we live, Marilyn Rose Reynolds, you too shall live, for you are a part of all who have known you.
This ends our service of celebration. Please join us in the lobby where we can swap tales and hugs and remember her with coffee and desserts made from her own recipes. Thank you.