Marge Arnold was an assistant professor of health, physical education and recreation at Mary Washington College for 32 years. Marge was known for her many interests – boating, books, gardening, history, art, tennis and of course music. She loved gardens and tended those of historic homes like the Rising Sun Tavern, Mary Washington House as well as St. George’s and the Fredericksburg Center for Creative Arts
Marge will forever be associated with the organ project in the 1980’s. Marge Arnold recounted how it began 25 years ago “On a blustery day in January, 1983 a call came from one Tom Guthrie. He was so excited he could hardly get his words out. He has just received a call from Mr. James Baker of the Music Department at Mary Washington College offering for St. George’s Church the chance to buy the college’s four pipe organs for the ridiculous price of $9,000. What did I think? I shared his enthusiasm for he had for months wanted to do something about the present organ, some of which dated back to the 19th century. Being an accomplished organist he was to say the least frustrated by the limitations of the St. George’s organ.”
Arnold, a member of the choir, served with Pete Myers on a three year journey to raise funds for both a renovated chancel organ and a new separate organ in the west gallery. Tom Guthrie, the organist during the early 1980’s, visited St. George’s twice in 2008 and donated first Marge Arnold’s memoirs and then his own memoirs to the St. George’s archives. Arnold’s memoirs are stored in an accordion file alphabetized with separate folders and include the donations, organ committee minutes, newsletter articles and the like. Along the way you meet many of the donors from far away places and their relatives who attended St. George’s. She wrote personal thank you notes to them
Mary Washington College dropped its organ courses in 1983 and traded its four organs for an electronic one and then sold them to St. George’s for $9,000. Ranks of pipes and wind chests from each were reassembled and rewired in the west gallery. St. George’s organ had increased in size 3.5 times! Irving G. Lawless, organ curator for Kennedy Center, was hired to put the organ together. Kenneth Lundberg, an organ consultant from Pennsylvania, supervised the project.
In February, 1984, the fund raising began with subcommittees established for memorials, publicity, plaques, brochures, and pledges. The rear organ was in place for a dual organ recital with Guthrie and Dr. William Munsie, then a pathologist at Mary Washington Hospital. The committee decided in the summer of 1984 to renovate the organ in the west gallery followed by the chancel organ. $125,000 was raised and after four years from Guthrie’s original call, the work had been done. In October, 1987, the organ was dedicated by a concert of Douglas Major, then associate organist-choirmaster at the Washington Cathedral.
The work in the 1980’s provided extra depth and range to the organ that had been moved to the chancel in 1925. Much of the back-breaking labor was done by Guthrie and Charles Hooten, then treasurer of the Church, over nights and weekends. The organ committee also provides an example of successful management of limited resources to accomplish a goal. 25 years later we used the organ as a “trade-in” to reduce the price paid for the Parson’s organ
In addition to the work on the organ, Marge served on the Vestry 1974-1976 and then 1983-1985.
Arnold died of complications related to Parkinsons on June 1, 1996. She left in her will that a concert be given at St. George’s in her memory. The concert featured the Fredericksburg Chamber Chorale a group of singers she loved. At her funeral Charles Sydnor used three words to describe her – tenacity, veracity and generation. Her good friend Thom Guthrie organist at St. George’s 1982-1987 used the words ‘thank you.’ “ She lived her life in celebration of the gifts we have in this life.”