Edna Marguerite Jones Fuller

Marguerite Fuller was an early member of the parish.  She was a widow, and an exceptionally well-read and theologically-engaged woman, familiar with most of the great post-World War II luminaries of Anglican poetry and literature and arts:  Rose Macaulay, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, W.H. Auden, Ralph Vaughan Williams (in all his agnosticism), Sir John Betjeman, Cleanth Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Andrew Lytle, and the rest.  In fact she was, in religious terms, a product of the great Anglican post-war glory days.  She joined the parish for reasons of principle and thoughtful conviction.  She sent a package of Georgia pecans every Christmas to her friend, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, lived in a fine house on Cobb Street around the corner from my apartment, and was said to be a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.  In fact she was not, I think, demented, but merely somewhat eccentric and vague.  She never seemed to me to get worse or to change as she surely would have done had she suffered from a degenerative dementia.

But eccentric she was.  The depth of her eccentricity was brought home to me one evening when we were both guests at a dinner party.  Marguerite came in quite late, but in time to eat.  After the dinner she announced that she could not drive herself home in the dark after two glasses of wine, so I needed to give her a ride.  I did.  Upon arrival in Cobbham I walked her to her door.  Since she neither had a key in her hand nor was she reaching into a pocket or purse for such, and given the rumor of Alzheimer’s I had heard, I thought she might need prompting.  So I asked where her key was.  ‘I do not carry a key,’ she answered.  I asked how then she got into her house, to which she replied, ‘Well, usually the door is unlocked.’  I tried the door.  It was locked.  I asked what she did if the door were locked:  ‘Usually my son is home.  Ring the bell.’  I rang the doorbell.  No one seemed to be home.  I asked what she did if the door were locked and her son were not home.  The answer was clear, if not entirely welcome:

You need to go around to the back of the house.  There is a ladder against the wall leading up to the second floor.  The window at the top is unlocked.  Let yourself in, then come down and let me in.

I began to obey these instructions, when, fortunately, her son appeared at the door and let his mother in.

The ladder, apparently, stayed in place, for some months later it figured in instructions to a third person.  The bishop was going to visit Athens for confirmations.  Although Marguerite planned to be out of town, she very much wanted the organizers of the episcopal reception to use the dozens of linen napkins she had cleaned and ironed.  So Marguerite called a fellow parishioner (also named Fuller, by chance) and had her husband, Hank, go to Marguerite’s house, up the ladder, in the window, down the stairs, and to ‘the Italian chest’ where the napkins were kept.  ‘Hank wouldn’t know an Italian chest from a hole in the ground,’ was the not very flattering uxorial comment.  But Hank managed to find and fetch the napkins anyway.  His wife took the precaution of calling some of the neighbors whom she knew to tell them not to shoot Hank as a house-breaker.

A year or two later Marguerite decided to give the parish a Nativity scene.  She was an interior decorator, and wanted me to accompany her to the merchandise mart in Atlanta where she received a substantial professional discount.  There she would buy the Nativity set I chose.  She also wanted to show me the Atlanta Athletic Club where he late architect husband, Pope, had been a member.  The expedition occurred on a Saturday.

It began early with Marguerite picking me up in her Volkswagen with the announcement that I would have to drive.  I no longer recall why she could not.  Now I really did not feel able to drive a car with a standard transmission, particularly in Atlanta traffic.  In my undergraduate days my friend, Vicki Barker, had given me two lessons in her VW Beetle, but I had not mastered the skill by any means.  Nonetheless, I did drive to Atlanta, probably imperiling Marguerite, me, and many others.  The day included the merchandise mart (and a successful purchase of a lovely Nativity set which the parish still has), the Athletic Club, two trips to her drycleaner, and a lunch at the Atlanta airport with my parents, who had a few hours’ layover on their way to the West Coast from Ohio.  Marguerite’s evaluation of my parents was gratifying:  ‘Your people are lovely.’  The trip back included a ‘short cut’ that was nothing of the sort.  It was a long but thoroughly memorable day.

Eventually Marguerite was no longer able to drive even in Athens and even when having had no wine.  She would take a taxi to Sunday Mass, usually arriving in the midst of the sermon, by way of the handicapped entrance next to the pulpit.  Her advent was the end of homiletic attention, I fear.  By that point in her life she took tiny steps, going anywhere only slowly:  so the distraction was prolonged.  Nor was it minor, for Marguerite was a sight.  In her arms and hands were a purse, a canvas bag, a shawl, an unlit brown (‘More’ brand) cigarette, and – most compelling of all – a chipped green enamel cup partially filled with water.  I could feel every eye in the nave zoom from whatever point previously occupied its attention – I am not so vain as to assume that the pulpit was the chief ‘whatever’ – to that green cup.  Would water slosh out or not as Marguerite tottered to her favored pew?

Later still Marguerite could not get to church even with the help of taxis or rides.  At that point I took her communion at home.  She was deeply devout and had an uncomplaining, noble patience under her sufferings.  She wished to receive the Sacrament, speak of books, and share news of friends.  She was, I think, a very holy person, full of intelligence and kindness.  I am very glad I knew her.

One thought on “Marguerite Fuller

  1. And was she still wearing hats at this time of taking taxis to Mass? I still have a red felt wide brimmed hat that she gave me, since at that time I regularly wore hats to church, and she thought I might like another one.

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