Peter, Margaret’s brother in law (her younger sister Meridy’s husband) presented the Eulogy at Margaret’s funeral. This is printed with permission from Margaret’s family, especially Alicia, who organized the funeral so well. Before reading this, have some tissues ready.
I come from a land down under.
I first met Margie in 1986 when I started going out with Meridy, who at that time was my boss. Margie and Eugene invited me to live with them in 1988 whilst I undertook an elective term at Georgetown University to complete my medical degree, and I have been a proud member of her family for 15 years.
It is indeed a privilege to represent Margie’s family, her husband Eugene, her children, Dereck and Alicia, her brother Michael and her sisters Marilyn and Meridy in sharing with you aspects of Margaret’s life that we hold dear. Margaret has an extensive and devoted family, [including] her brothers-in-law Ron and Harry who are present today; and home in Australia, sisters-in-law, and many nieces and nephews who loved and adored her have all gathered in Adelaide, her birth place, to celebrate and remember Margie and support Margaret’s mother Helen who was unable to travel to see her daughter.
The depth of our grief that we share today is a reflection on the importance and relevance that Margaret had on all our lives. She has woven a rich tapestry over her life, joining together an eclectic mix of friends and colleagues, through her work at the World Bank, her involvement in both tennis and golf communities, and through her role as a mother and wife for her family.
Margaret and Eugene moved to the USA over 35 years ago, shortly after their marriage in 1969, and adopted this great land as their home, and chose to raise their family here, and indeed, both became citizens of the United States of America recently. I do know however that if Margie had any regrets, it was that she was unable to make one last trip to our great land down under, to gaze upon the Southern Cross, one of the great constellations in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoy a Coopers beer and partake in the good natured banter that families are renowned for.
Margaret’s childhood was not particularly easy, and I suspect from this the tenacity, determination and grit that Margaret displayed throughout her life has partly emerged. Helen (Margie’s mother), always comments that she was a dream child, calm and placid, which is in stark contrast to her other 3 children. I’m sure that all of you who have met the 4 children would agree. From a young age Margie was excelling on the tennis court, and over the last few days it has been wonderful to revisit the myriad of paper clippings and photos that chronicle many aspects of her life.
Margaret joined the staff at the World Bank over 33 years ago as a secretary, and rose through the ranks in several positions, ultimately managing the Human Resources Department at her retirement. The friendships that have arisen from her time there were all very meaningful to her, and she continued to maintain contact with people long after their retirement. This was one of the golden threads that has woven the cloth of Margie’s life.
Margie was well known, respected, and even feared on the tennis courts of the U.S. and the world. The number of National and International Titles that she has won in Singles and Doubles are too many to list. I wonder if there will ever be another individual who will amass as many titles and records as Margie. Will there ever be an unbeaten Mixed Doubles record that Eugene and Margaret have established? Perhaps only if Andre and Steffi hit the courts together. The humility and grace that Margaret displayed whether she won or lost gained her the utmost respect and admiration wherever she went.
Over the last decade Margaret (and Eugene) have been members of the Westwood Country Club, and Margie added golf to her list of accomplishments, working on lowering her Handicap of 12 to single digits. As husband and wife, Margie and Russ [Gene Russo’s nickname] have won the Club’s Mixed Tournament, and she has represented Westwood in the Virginian State Teams Competition. On their trips to Australia, Margie and Russ were both members of Glenelg Golf Club, along with her mother, who at 87 has only just put the sticks away. It always gave Helen great pleasure to have Margie play in her group of 4 on Ladies Day on Tuesdays, although Helen’s penchant for fast play could even ruffle Margie (albeit only ever so slightly).
Margaret’s strength and determination were apparent when she was re-learning her golf swing after the tumour and subsequent treatment interfered with her swing. She was not afraid to stand at the tee and have several air swings. She quietly kept working away at it, and indeed was on the golf course when her illness placed a tight twist in the tail, one, that unfortunately would take her life.
Perhaps Margie’s finest achievement, one for which there are no medals, trophies or gold balls, is her family. Her children Alicia and Dereck have both been provided with foundations to enable them to develop into the capable, responsible and caring young adults that they have become. I was able to bear witness to this in the manner that they have carried themselves in this extremely difficult period of their lives, and the care and love that they demonstrated in looking after their Mum in the last days of her life. Margie did not do this alone. It was as a member of the partnership that she and Eugene established over 35 years ago, that has enabled these kids to have an enviable start in life.
Family was so important to Margaret. She loved hanging out with them, laughing with them. It gave her such great pleasure. I know that my kids looked forward to Margie and Russ arriving in Australia each summer for their annual sojourn to escape the DC winter, soak up the sun, go to the beach, play golf and tennis. Margie’s last trip was so memorable as she embarked on a frenzy of jam making. We had production lines going, pounds and pounds of sugar, and the results were magnificent. Apricot, Mulberry and the pièce de resistance the Fig Jam, the fruits which came from Michael and Leanne’s abundant tree. The effects of the tumour and radiotherapy unfortunately had affected her ability to count, so she had my girls keeping count of the number of cups of sugar and water in the recipe. Fig Jam will be en enduring memory for me, and each time I have some it will be compared to the produce of Summer, 2004, Margie’s fig jam.
At the outset I mentioned that it was a privilege to speak on behalf of family and friends. Marilyn, Margaret’s older sister has many special memories, but has described 3 of significant poignancy. They all demonstrate the calmness, courage, discipline and spirit that embodied Margaret both throughout her life, and also in the last 15 months of her life as illness challenged her. The combined effects of the tumour and its treatment resulted in a loss of balance and co-ordination. Marilyn describes a trip to Florida with Margie, where along with Trish Faulkner they worked for 4 days to re-establish the grace and poise which Margaret was both revered and feared for on the tennis court. She was back on the court, doing what she loved, and this embodies the fighting spirit of our Margie. One of Margie’s friends Patty describes the excitement at receiving a phone-call from her gleefully pronouncing “I got it in the box”, referring to her serve. Late last year in an effort to regain her fitness, she essentially walked her sisters Marilyn and Meridy into the ground with daily power walks. Marilyn ended up with shin splints.
Margie was inspirational to many people, and Marilyn is especially grateful, as Margie quietly encouraged her to consider playing tennis again after a prolonged absence from the court. This quiet insistence has resulted in Margie and Marilyn playing in the U.S and Australian 55 years teams respectively together at Ali Bey Belek in in Turkey in 2003, where they celebrated Margie’s 55th Birthday, and Marilyn dreamed and hoped of playing at other exotic venues throughout the world, representing their countries in the game which the whole family was reared on. Sadly this was to be the one and only occasion that this would occur. What Marilyn has discovered, is that being Margie’s sister at world tennis events is like being related to royalty. She is held in such high esteem by everyone. Meridy, Margaret’s younger sister has always been extremely close [to Margaret]. I believe that whilst distance and years separated them, that they truly behaved like twins. Their understanding of each other was quite intuitive.
Friends! I have been humbled in the last week by the friends that Margie has. Their generosity of spirit that they have demonstrated in their care and support for Margie over the last 15 months and in the last weeks of her life has been quite over-whelming, and as I said, humbling. It is truly a mark of the person that our Margaret was that she amassed such a variety of friends, that transcended many boundaries, be they gender, race or status. The phone calls, cards, flowers and emails that have flowed into her home describe the essential Margaret so aptly, none more so than from her friend Carlo Ramirez from Barcelona Spain.
Two final acts of determination demonstrate Margie’s courage and spirit. On receiving a phone call from Carlo, last weekend, even though she had been unable to speak for the last 10 days, she summoned the strength to enable her to say hello to him on the telephone. When Dereck and Alicia arrived home this week, Margaret had been unconscious for 2 days, and again despite her absolute exhaustion, she was able to muster the strength to let them both know that she was pleased to see them.
Each of us will have our special memories of Margaret which we will hold dear. Some will be quite private, and others we may share over a cup of tea, or a Coopers beer. It may be that when you are in a tight spot at work, at the shops or toughing it out in a long point on the tennis court, you may gain an extra ounce of strength, by utilizing your memories of Margaret, and drawing upon her for inspiration.
But let me close these reflections and memories of our dear Margaret by quoting from notes that Carlo has sent us:
“That tall, elegant, funny, classy, graceful and wonderful lady that we got to know as Margaret, Maggie, Mrs. Russo or many other names, is moving on to other courts other surfaces and other matches and experiences. I hope you always remember the great style and class of her tennis abilities, and for those of us who had the luck to have our life caressed by her love and kindness will always remember her. It is a blessing when someone touches your life and leaves it a little more full through their love and kindness.”
Margaret we have all been blessed by you. We all love you and will miss you dearly. Thank you.