The Eulogy for Marge Mortensen
Marge was born on June 27, 1935 in Newark. Her brother Henry followed her into this world in less than a year, so they grew up like twins. Her father was a tool and dye maker.
When Marge was a teenager, her parents bought a lot in Lake Parsippany and, over the next two years Marge and Henry helped their father build their new home on weekends and in the summertime. Marge laid bricks and installed electrical outlets.
When the house was finally finished the family moved in and Marge started attending Boonton High School, which involved walking a mile each morning to Bates Farm where she would catch the bus, and doing the same in the afternoon to return home. One time she missed the bus and had to walk all the way home from Boonton.
Marge’s best friend at the time was Anne Marie Reinhardt, whose father owned a local flower shop. For a couple of years Marge worked for the Reinhardts at the shop.
When Marge was about to turn sixteen, her parents asked her what she would like for her birthday. She answered that she wanted to go to church, which up until then she hadn’t had much opportunity to do. Her friend Anne and her family attended the Parsippany Methodist Church, the “little white church on the hill”, so Marge began attending worship with the Reinhardts. Soon she was singing in the choir, becoming a member of the church at age 18. Marge would remain a faithful member of our church for next 53 years; at the time of her death, no one had been a member for a longer period of time.
Marge graduated from Boonton High School in 1954. In what was surely a great blow to Marge, her best friend Anne died a year after graduation.
At some point Marge began working at a transistor company in Morristown, calibrating transistors, and for a time she found housing in town near her work.
In 1956 Bob Mortensen finished up a four year stint serving his country in the Navy. In the Fall of 1958 Bob was living in a boarding house in Parsippany, assisting the manager, and he, too began attending the little white church on the hill, singing in the choir. At the time, however, Marge, was living in Morristown and was taking a break from the choir, but she came to church on Easter Sunday in 1959. Standing in the back of a packed house, Marge spotted the handsome new bass in the choir, and he noticed her, as well. Later, Bob would say that from the very moment he locked eyes on Marge on Church he knew they would one day marry.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, Marge began attending choir rehearsals once more the very next week, though she would play “hard to get” with Bob for a time. Bob got the low down on who the cute blond girl was, and where she lived, from a friend, Bob Dixon.
Not long afterwards Bob drove by the house, finding Marge in the driveway in her short shorts washing her car. She dashed in to the house to put on something more presentable, coming back out to talk with the young suitor.
Bob’s first attempt at a date fell short as Marge already had a date scheduled with someone else, but Bob persisted, and before long they went out together bowling. From the second date Bob began dropping comments in passing in which he would refer to some future point “when we’re married”. At first Marge ignored these comments, not quite sure what to make of them, but before long it was clear where this romance was headed.
Bob and Marge had a lot of fun together. They enjoyed going dancing at DeMao’s on Route 10. Once in the summer of 1959 Bob and Marge went Square Dancing at a picnic at Mazdabrook Farm, and although they had never really square danced before, they won $50 that night as the couple that danced the best together. Interestingly, they opened a joint savings account together with the money.
There was the New Year Eve during which they went to a party together, and then came home so late they fell asleep exhausted in the driveway of Marge’s parents.
In March of 1960 Bob took Marge out to dinner at Three Sisters on Route 46 in Dover, bringing along Bob’s sister Cookie and her husband Bubby. Bubby’s job was to carry an engagement ring, which at the right moment Bob presented to Marge. “Will you marry me?” he asked. Marge said “Yes!” The quality of the ring made quite an impression as well.
Six months later on September 3, 1960 Bob and Marge were married in the little white church on the hill. Rev. Downing officiated, and afterwards 100 people gathered at the Birchwood Manor for a reception. Afterwards Bob and Marge spent a romantic week in the Poconoes staying at a honeymoon suite on Echo Lake.
Following their marriage, the new couple lived for a year with Marge’s mother and father, before moving out on their own to a house in Lake Parsippany at 100 Jacksonville Drive. Bob was working for Sea Land in Newark.
Suzie was born in February of 1963 in the midst of a huge snow storm. When the time came to go to the hospital Bob called the doctor and the minister and then proceeded to dig out the driveway, tossing the snow shovel like a javelin into the neighbor’s yard before they drove off to All Souls Hospital on Mt. Kimball Road in Morristown.
In September of 1964 the young family moved to the house on Northfield that would be home for the rest of Marge’s life.
Debbie was born two years after Sue in March of 1965, once more in a snow storm, but this time not quite as bad. The rush to the hospital, however was a bit more intense this time because Marge’s water had already broken at home.
Eric arrived six years later in June of 1971 — no snow storm this time, but Bob did manage to get stuck in an elevator. When finally he got up to the waiting room, the doctor announced, “You son has arrived.”
There was some tough health challenges to endure in those early years of parenting.
Suzie spent the better part of a year suffering strep infections, spiking severe fevers.
Marge hounded the doctors for answers, insisting on strep tests they were reluctant to order, and each time the tests would come back positive. Finally, after Marge’s persistence, a small blockage in her bladder was detected and corrected.
Debbie was born with a congenital hip problem, which meant that the early years of
her life right up through kindergarten were spent in various body casts. Eric’s health was better, but there was the time he jumped off the couch imitating superman cracking his head open on a coffee table, shedding much blood and requiring several stitches.
But Bob and Marge stood strong together through the scary times of parenting,
always trusting that things would work out in the end; they were always a team. And along the way they were able to provide what sounds to my ear like a pretty wonderfully happy childhood for their three children.
On summer evenings there were outings where all the kids would get packed into the station wagon to go to the drive in theater in Morris Plains, where the kids would play in the play ground until it was time for the movie to start, and then climb back into the car and promptly fall asleep. After the drive home, Bob would carry them into the house and put them to bed. There was ice cream at O’Dowds in Pine Brook, followed by wanderings about the auction under the big tent.
There were tap dancing lessons for all the kids and, of course dance recitals.
From 1972 all the way through 1989, there were camping trips with their trailer for weekends — sometimes longer — to Tall Timbers in Vernon, where there was swimming, boating, fishing, softball, arcades, and dancing. Friends like the Johnsons and the Beermans would visit and new friends would be made, and plenty of good memories created sitting around campfires. They were trips to Vernon Valley and to
Hershey Poconoes, trips to Rocking Horse Ranch and to another dude ranch in New York that no one can remember the name of. There were trips the World Fair in Montreal in 1967, and trips to Maine and Boston. There were trips to the Jersey Shore; to Seaside,
Point Pleasant and Wildwood for a week or two.
There was a trip that was supposed to end up in Niagara Falls, but the old station wagon broke down in White Haven, Pennsylvania, providing a lesson in trust as the family found hospitality from a lovely couple that took them into their home for a couple of days and helped them get their car fixed.
The approach of Christmas always meant a trip to Pennsylvania to search for just the right tree. Wandering about in a sea of trees the family would call out to one another about various possibilities, finally coming to agreement about one very big tree. One time the tree included a bird nest. After tying the tree to the roof of the station wagon the ride home always included a stop at a diner for lunch.
On Christmas Eve, the family would always go to the candlelight service at the church, and then Bob and Marge would stay up to 3 a.m. playing Santa Claus, and Suzie would wake up at 4:30 and they would have to coax her back to bed, and then in the morning there were so many presents.
Marge loved to cook and Christmas and Thanksgiving meant sit down dinners with so much food, turkey and potatoes and pies — the works — and always lots of company.
Marge loved her church where she sang in the choir forever, and served on the worship committee, and did the white elephant room at the happy apple bazaar. The whole family looked forward to the potluck family nights that were held each month, and working on the Roast Beef dinners, and helping to decorate the church for Christmas. At a church talent show one time Bob and Marge sang a duet together, ‘I remember’, a
Maurice Chevalier song that was unforgettable.
Susan Thompson sent this remembrance of Marge in church:
“As a child, I experienced her great eye contact and smile from my congregational perspective. A rare wit in those days, and great on the uptake with a laugh to match.”
In 1966 Marge met Marilyn Gilmore who was pregnant and staying next door. Marge took a baby gift over to Marilyn, and they became fast friends. Marilyn and Tom and their four kids and all the Mortensens would often be together. The women made luncheons for the kids that were feasts from a kid’s perspective with tunafish, spaghettios and omelets and who knows what else.
There was the night of the Great Bat Caper, marked by the sudden appearance of a bat in the house led to the immediate evacuation from the house by Marge and Marilyn, leaving the kids behind to fend for themselves. Later, from the safety of across street Marge and Marilyn watched through the windows as Bob and Tom, armed with tennis rackets, did battle to deliver the house of the wretched bat.
There was the day the Mortensens and the Gilmores made a trip together to the top of the Statue of liberty, climbing every step, the Mortensen children 10, 8 and 2 at the time — Bob carrying Eric all the way to the very top.
Marilyn and Marge were two peas in a pod. In Marilyn’s words, Marge saw her through
some very hard times. Marge got Marilyn to join our church. After the kids had all entered school, Marge ventured back into the workforce, dragging Marilyn along for company. Like Lucy and Ethel, they worked side by side in various part time jobs, such as Arthur Teacher’s — Sue ended up working there, also. But Marge always made sure to be home in time for the kids when they got out of school. Eric remembers in high school how his mom would pick him up after school every day and drive him to Cedar Knolls for his job at the workout Gym.
Marge loved going to Halloween parties. She enjoyed ceramics and collecting dolls, especially Chinese dolls, and going to Bingo with her friend Marie. She loved humming birds, and lilacs and wisteria, and watching Wheel of Fortune. She had a song for every dangling word. She was generous. Marion Steen sent me this memory of Marge:
“One Sunday near Christmas I admired a cute little wooden hand-crafted pin of
Rudolph Marge had on her coat. Immediately, nothing would do, but off came the pin
and she insisted upon putting it on my coat. The more I protested, the more she
insisted. This was just the usual Marge, wanting others to be happy!”
In Marge’s house there were always decorations for the holiday of the season. There were always beloved dogs around; Patches, who beget Frosty; there was Brooks,
Daisy and Princess. At certain points Bob and Marge would breed Corinne Terriers, bringing a litter of puppies into the house. In Marge’s house, there was always room for others who needed a place to stay. In 1987, Debbie’s friend Dee moved in and became Marge’s adopted daughter and didn’t move out until 2001. Bob’s brother Ziggy, suffering from Alzheimer’s, came to live with them for ten months in 1990, as Marge and Bob cared for him in his decline.
Bob retired in 1990. In 1992 Bob and Marge bought a 33 ft boat with a closed cabin and cockpit in the back, with which they would cruise around Barnaget and Seaside; how Marge loved to go boating. Later there would be a 40 ft cabin cruiser, and trips to the shore every weekend from a Thursday evening through Monday.
Marge always loved children, and in 1989 she began working at Eastlake School as a lunch hour aide with children from kindergarten through second grade. The children loved Mrs. M, and she loved them, bringing them little gifts throughout the year, and drawing pictures for them — whatever they asked for; a princess or Popeye,
a bunny or cookie monster, Woody or Minnie Mouse. She had a real gift. She would tell them stories about her little dog, Sailor. Marge would listen to the children, and encourage them to feel good about themselves.Marge always had a tender spot in her heart for her brother Henry’s children; Helen and Katherine, Charlene and Sam.
The arrival of her grandchild Natasha brought Marge great joy and helped sustain her through the times of her illness. She loved Nick, and was delighted that Eric had found Isabelle. in 1999 Marge’s health began to decline. Bronchitis and pneumonia, pleurisy, problems with high blood pressure, diabetes and problems with her kidneys. It was a long hard road she traveled, turning particularly difficult this past April. Over the last six months of Marge’s life she went from hospital to rehab center and back again over and over, spending only 14 days of the last six months of her life in her beloved home.
Through it all, Bob was always at her side, so devoted, so faithful. Marge worried about Bob and he worried about her.
Marge had the “biggest heart going”. She was compassionate and loving, smart and strong. She departed this world knowing well that she was loved, having loved well those whom God had given her to love.
Marge has a brand new body now; one that can dance even better than the one that won the $50 with Bob back in 1959 at the Square Dance. It’s so very beautiful where Marge is now. One day you will be together again in God’s blessed kingdom of love and light.