Thursday, July 22, 2010

Obituary: ...
Columnist 'Marj' Leegard passed away, wrote for 'Lutheran Woman Today': warmly missed
by Peter Menkin

When a writer dies, one favored and admired, even loved by devoted readers, there is a sigh of mourning as though a friend one’s known for many years has passed from the scene. Sometimes death marks a new era, even the changing of the guard to a new generation. In the religious sense, Church goers are known to think of passing their lessons, faith, and joy from generation to generation—in Jesus Christ. That is the continuity of the case with the passing of Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) columnist for “Lutheran Woman Today.” The columnist Marj Leegard passed away July 12, 2010. She is warmly missed. Many San Francisco Lutheran's note her passing.

ELCA News service said in their first paragraph, a clear note of journalistic presence in form:

Beloved author, columnist and speaker Marjorie "Marj" L. Leegard, Detroit Lakes, Minn., died July 12 after a long history of heart disease. She was 89. Most notably Leegard was a columnist for Lutheran Woman Today, the magazine of Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The magazine describes itself as: mix of faith-in-life articles, theological reflections, devotions, and human-interest stories of comfort and challenge. Subscribers who wished to be uplifted in the mission of women and uplifted in their faith in Jesus Christ were readers. So the magazine says it offers.

In an article published about Marj in “Lutheran Woman Today,” Marj is quoted in the June 2009 piece about her stance as writer. She considered it a ministry.

Now the dawn leads into day along eastern ocean beaches. The places where breakers roar and winds move sand, people gain strength from the elemental movement of water and land. The artist gathers her brushes and begins to form a palette of grays and blues. Lights and darks. The writer sits before a blank page and shapes the opening line. The musician listens for the inner melody that will be music only if she makes a mark upon the staff. The people of God are creating. God has new voice. (“The Sounds of the Church,” September 1997, LWT )

(The magazine reports): Marj took on an identity as writer at an early age: “In fifth grade I entered the Women’s Tem­perance League’s writing contest. I wrote a story about a man who was in jail for drinking. My story beat all the fifth- and sixth-graders, and I won the prize of $5 cash. I went to J.C. Penney’s and bought new shoes and a new dress and I still had money left over. I was a writer from that day on.”

As described further in the article: Marj Leegard’s first “Give Us This Day” column ran in the March 1994 issue of Lutheran Woman Today. Each column since then has offered readers faith-filled gifts wrapped in stories of everyday life.

Thank you, Marj, for your lead­ership, ministry, writing, and welcome. Thanks be to God for the blessing of your faithful witness.

Interestingly to this writer, and noted here, Marj was known many places and cared about for her work as a writer and religious person. As an indication of that, see the credit given the writer of the ELCA news story telling about her death:

Anne Edison-Albright is a Horizon International Intern, serving at Bratislava International Church and teaching religion at the Evangelical Lyceum in Bratislava, Slovakia. She is a candidate for ordained ministry in the ELCA.

Note there is the Lutheran World Federation, and one can infer Marj had readers the world over. Mostly, though, her home was a rural setting and some of her stories rural in markings, honest in their intent, and true to life. Here is a reflection by the columnist Marj on living in ones later years, written in her later years:

The man arrived early for the farm auction. His old friends were moving to town. The boxes were ready on the flat­bed wagons. There was no extra room in the new, smaller house. No shop. An efficiency kitchen.

He hardly looked into the boxes, for they were always the same. Good covers for kettles. Why only the covers? Then he remembered that the kettles went on to another use. Some held geraniums on the porch steps. Some held oyster shells in the chicken coop. Some were nests for the banty hens the kids raised. Some were repaired and made welcome water sources in the yard. It was only the kettle covers that stayed unchipped. Only the covers that had no further function.

Our children are grown and capable of telling us what to do. We are now the grandmothers and great-grandmothers in the generation pictures. We are the covers. . . . We can let ourselves be cov­ers unchipped, undented, and unused. Or we can be the kettles that are never assigned to the useless and unnecessary corner. It doesn’t matter that we no lon­ger bubble on the stove from morning until night. We’ve done that! We still make nesting places and produce blooms and provide water for the thirsty.

God has plans for each of us, for all of our days. We listen as we pray. We listen as we read. We listen as we hear the gospel. While we listen, we hear our names called. There is today a place where you are needed. Where you can be the feet, the hands, the heart, the generosity, the love of Christ in God’s creation. “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless” (Isaiah 40:29). God’s children are never dis­carded. Never useless. Never too old. (“Kettle Covers,” May 1995, LWT)

The ELCA statement tells us: Marj keeps an updated list of favorite hymns she wants sung at her funeral. Jerome says Marj wants “a funeral in the afternoon, a concert in the evening.” Her list includes “Thy Holy Wings,” “Borning Cry,” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” …

A funeral service for Leegard is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 16 at Richwood Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes. Leegard became a member of Richwood in 1944, after she wed Jerome Leegard there in 1942. She has served as president of the congregation and the Richwood Lutheran Parish Council.

"Through her writing, speaking and in conversations, Marj has consistently invited us to live in the wonder of God's grace," the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, wrote in a July 14 letter to Leegard's husband, family and friends.

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