Marcella Arnow

Born September 22, 1941, Died February 14, 2010

My cousin Marcella was born in Kentucky, grew up in Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan and got her master’s degree from the London School of Economics. She lived in New York and Winchester, England. There she worked for IBM until she happily retired. She was a good friend, sister, cousin, cook, gardener, and horse rider. She called us all “Sweetie.” 

Her friends and family are scattered, so I made this web page to share some pictures, words and music to commemorate her. Most of this comes from the funeral service February 18 in Winchester.— Pat Arnow

Tribute from
Christine Whitehead 

From the funeral service for Marcella, in the town where she lived for many years, Winchester, England, February 18, 2010: 

I have known Marcella for some 47 years, ever since she came to London School of Economics in 1963.

Six short cameos from our many times together – most, not surprisingly, involving cooking –

Talking to her last month about her first winter – which was as cold as this one – she had a one room flat with 4 outside walls and a single bar heater! – but also a little later when she moved to Great Ormond St with a fantastic landlady who had been a BBC producer but was then cooking for a living usually venison in the Highlands.

Christmas at the family home in Ann Arbor – and going up to road to the farm to buy milk for the blueberry muffins that Harriet was going to make. And doing complex cooking recipes in my parents home , who had become her English family in the 1960s

Monitoring the World Trade Centre being built, from outside her flat in Brooklyn – where I spent many happy weeks on and off in the 1970s – and watching her face as she opened a present from her mother – a beautiful and large (the flat was not large) wooden ice cream maker!

Cooking duck in another friends cold and miserable flat in London just after Marcella came back to London – and Marcella’s concern about carrying the enormous amount of fat they had produced 

On so many occasions chatting/arguing about London, politics – both UK and US, the health service, art or whatever in our kitchen in Islington – or on the phone – and only twice in Winchester (for which I am ashamed)

And not more than ten days ago asking her why she came to LSE in 1963 – long before it became the norm with the influx of Americans escaping the Vietnam war – saying it was brave – and Marcella replying ‘roughly’ nonsense and smiling her marvellous smile when I said I was so glad that she had come.

Tribute from Mike Arnow
From the funeral service for Marcella
I am here with my sisters Maureen and Pat from the United States. 

Our father and Marcella’s father were brothers and they lived a hard life surviving the depression.  Marcella’s parents met in the writer’s project, one of President Roosevelt’s initiatives to keep artists employed during the 1930s.

Marcella’s parents scratched out a meager existence on their farm on the rural hills of Kentucky.  That’s where Marcella was born, in Keno, Kentucky.  Like many people of the mountain south, the family moved to the industrial north, where more jobs were available.  They settled on small farm in a community near Detroit Michigan.  The weather was tough… and the farm life was tough too, but Marcella’s dad could work the farm and work in the city too, so life was somewhat better.

Marcella grew up on the farm with her younger brother Tom.  Her dad (Harold) worked for the Detroit Times as a crime reporter. He was a hard-crusted cynic on the outside and a slightly warmer-hearted Dad on the inside.

Marcella’s mom, Harriette Simpson Arnow, wrote 5 best selling books and was named by a national magazine as one of the top 5 women of 1955.  Her mom had an artist’s temperament that made her very hard to get along with. 
 Marcella eventually came to the UK to study at the London School of Economics.  This brilliant young women loved it here and returned in the 1980s, and she stayed for good.  She didn’t dislike the United States.  She was mostly proud of her US citizenship, except when George Bush was president.  

My first vivid memory of Marcella was of this quiet little girl, on the farm, in pig tails, with her head in a book.  My last vivid memory of Marcella was about 6 years ago.  She was visiting the States.  We sat in a garden on a warm, quite summer night sipping red wine and talking about a future trip we hoped to take together to Lithuania.  She wanted to visit the land where her grandfather (our grandfather) Louis Arnow lived, and where, in 1890, at age 19 he fled the pogroms that attempted to eliminate the Jews.  We didn’t talk much about her cancer.  Her hair was just starting to grow back.  We didn’t talk about her courage in the face of cancer, but we talked about the future, and we admired her ability to look only to the future.

This June, when our children our out of school, Laura and I will be flying to Lithuania.  We plan to sit on a warm, quiet summer night, sipping red wine, talking about the future, and saluting the memory of Marcella Jane Arnow.

Marcella's friends from the stable brought her horse Blue to the hospice so that Marcella could say goodbye.

Marcella’s friends from the stable brought her horse Blue to the hospice so that Marcella could say goodbye. Her cat, Pepper, visited, too, brought over by her neighbor Jacqui. And friends were there every day: Joycelyn and Avril, and gardeners, horse lovers, neighbors. 

The staff even asked her friends to control the crowds–too many people were surrounding her bed all the time. Marcella remained gracious and interested. 

Her brother Tom and his wife Maureen and their son David, visited, too. Cousin Libby deRosa came from New Jersey, and I visited from New York. 

She calmly told her friends what she wanted to happen after her death, and we did our best to fulfill her wishes. For me, that included stewardship of the old Arnow farm in Kentucky where she was born. Here is the story of how I fulfilled her wishes–and I was proud to preserve this land as a wilderness as she wished.

Reminiscence of Marcella
by Alison Bond
We have been so saddened by Marcella’s death. We first met her when she was a graduate student at the LSE, and then saw quite a lot of her when she lived in Brooklyn. I remember the marvelous meals that she cooked for us. I also will never forget that she visited us shortly after our second child was born, and discovered that we had a whole pile of back walnuts that my husband’s father had sent us. Marcella set about patiently shelling the nuts, using two bricks (can’t imagine how we happened to have bricks on hand!), and then proceeded to make the most wonderful black walnut fudge. Not only have I never been able to make proper fudge successfully, I’ve also never been able to shell black walnuts, but she made both tasks seem completely effortless.

A Remembrance 
by Marc Ringel

First, an introduction by Pat: 
My cousin Marcella was a few years older and much more responsible than I. She stayed in an apartment with me and some other roommates for a time in Chicago in the early ‘70s. She always treated our scruffy, broke and hapless selves with indulgence and humor.

This is from an e-mail I received February 14 from one of the roommates, Marc Ringel:

I’ve loved Marcella ever since she stayed with us on Fremont Street.  I too remember that dinner at The Bakery.  She blew a large part of her expense budget to take about a half-dozen of us out to dinner, saying it was in repayment for not having to rent a hotel room. 

I even remember Marcella telling us, as she ordered the first of a number of bottles of wine, that you should start with the best and most expensive, before you’d drunk too much to be able to tell the difference.  I had soup that was just the right temperature and beef Wellington.  That’s how well I remember it.  
It was wonderful to Marcella again at The Great Louisville Theater Event [Marcella came to see a play Pat co-wrote with her husband and an actor friend].  She was insistent that I come visit her in London, which, of course, I will never get to do.  

She had the same indomitable spirit as always.  Was wearing an elastic sleeve to control the swelling in her arm on the side where she’d had the breast and lymph nodes removed.  It was just another fact of her life.  There was no room for self-pity.
I know how much you’ll miss your dear cousin.  I’ll miss her too.

Detail from Winchester Cathederal near Marcella's home in England.
This detail of a sculpture from nearby Winchester Cathedral expressed how we were feeling as we visited Marcella and then planned her sendoff.
Marcella Arnow when she was a child
Marcella Arnow when she was a child
Harriette, Tom and Marcella Arnow
Harriette with her children, Tom and Marcella Arnow
Marcella Arnow with her friend Wanda Worley in Kentucky. (Photo from Wanda)
Marcella Arnow with her friend Wanda Worley in Kentucky. (Photo from Wanda)
With her friends Dylan and Miranda Keeling. (Photo from the Keelings)
With her friends Dylan and Miranda Keeling. (Photo from the Keelings)
Pat and Marcella Arnow at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Marcella took me to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens in 1983. (Photo by Pat Arnow–it was a self-timer.)
Marcella in the garden behind her house in Winchester, 1999. Everything seemed to be blooming. (Pat Arnow's photo)
Marcella in the beautiful garden behind her house in Winchester, England, 1999. Everything seemed to be blooming. (Pat Arnow’s photo)

Poem read by Miranda Keeling  at the funeral service. An extract from “Testament” by Kentucky poet Wendell Berry

Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in the air, don’t call it death – 
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfection in compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself; my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from
And toward which all my sorrows were surely
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say that I have left my native clay
At last to be a traveler; that too will be so.

Marcella asked her friend Dylan Keeling to choose the music for her funeral. She wanted a version of Amazing Grace, and he chose a version by the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

She also requested that Klezmer Music be played. Dylan chose Itzhak Perlman playing the Eastern European Jewish folk music.

Marcella the Polymath
Excerpt of a written remembrance by her younger brother Thomas Arnow
Marcella knew more about different subjects than anybody I could imagine. She knew England both as a tourist and as a native and understood the governments and healthcare systems of the UK and US to a depth that few experts in the field could match. …

I used to contact Marcella for answers to difficult questions. At the start of the Iraq War, I asked why Tony Blair acted as Bush’s lapdog. She told me that Blair believed in the cause. She knew a great deal about agriculture, not one of my favorite subjects, but I listened when she warned that modern techniques resembled those that helped cause the American dustbowl of the 1930s, which blasted millions of acres of topsoil…

She predicted major events, though with some extra pessimism. She told me about the war in Yugoslavia well before it happened…

I wish Marcella could follow the news as it develops. Perhaps somewhere, somehow, she can.

Tom Arnow, Marcella's brother
Tom Arnow, Marcella’s brother
Maureen, David, and Tom Arnow at Hindman
Sister-in-law Maureen, son David, and Tom Arnow at Hindman, Ky.

Tom lived in San Antonio, Texas. He died in August 2021.

Marcella had breast cancer eight years before she died, and after mastectomy, complications and treatment, she was well. She decided to do everything she ever wanted. That included riding and then owning a horse, learning French and going to Greece for a yoga retreat.

When her cancer recurred, and she knew she was going to die, she asked for a Humanist funeral (except she also asked for the recitation of Kaddish), and wanted to be buried in her adopted home and beloved home of Winchester, England. .

Winchester Cemetery, England, where Marcella is buried.
Winchester Cemetery, England, where Marcella is buried about a mile from the lovely home she made in that city. It was as she wished.
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