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Marilyn Maxey Alexander



Thursday, February 11, 2016
Ashburnham, Mass. — From her debut at the Park Hill Maternity Hospital in Spokane, Washington as an extemporary soprano on June 24, 1920 – an entrance cheered by her parents Chester Collins Maxey and Elnora Campbell Maxey – to her final bow at the home of her daughter Denise Alexander­ Anderegg in Ashburnham, Mass. on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, Marilyn Maxey Alexander lived her “hour upon the stage” with gusto, grace, and joy.

A prodigy with perfect pitch, Marilyn first began recognizing melody when she was just two­and­a­half years old, according to her mother, the director of the Whitman College Glee Club in Walla Walla, Wash. then discovered rhythm three months later drumming along with “Yankee Doodle.” In November 1923, at the age of three­ and­ a half, Marilyn played the air of “Marching Thru Georgia” without a mistake and thus began a long career in music. Later, she would joke she had grown up in the practice rooms of Whitman College’s Music Conservatory.

While still in high school, Marilyn participated in regional piano competitions and there met a student from Spokane whose musicianship she admired but whose personality she esteemed “silly.” His name was Rodney Wilson Alexander and after he came to study at Whitman College, where Marilyn’s father was President and mother taught music, she got to know him better and fell in love. On Sept. 11, 1942, they wed in her parents’ garden and remained happily married for the next 56 years, until Rodney passed away in 1998. She would never revise her opinion of his “silliness.” Their union was marked by almost daily laughter, often instigated by little more than mismatched socks, a wrong turn taken while trying to follow simple driving directions, or a portly squirrel pestering a birdfeeder outside the kitchen window.

From the age of 14, Marilyn was a church organist and choir master, playing for nearly every church in Walla Walla and later, after relocating to New England in 1967 when her husband accepted a professorship at Dartmouth College, playing for numerous churches in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. She taught piano and organ, gave private voice lessons, and became Dean of the New England Chapter of the Organists Guild. She also spoke three languages and taught high school English and French.

While she was widely known as a keyboardist, vocal coach, musical director, actress and singer Marilyn had other interests as well. For example, she was a dog breeder and showed Shelties, and loved to travel, visiting England, France, and Spain numerous times. In one of her favorite photographs, she sits atop a camel in Morocco. She also loved cooking and reading but most of all she loved people. She never tired of meeting new people, of hosting rousing parties, and of welcoming generations of students into her home.

Marilyn was 95. She leaves her older daughter Denise Alexander­ Anderegg and son-in-­law Peter Anderegg; younger daughter, Adrienne Ruegger and partner, Russell Foreman; grandsons, Nathan Ruegger and wife, Alexis, Luke Ruegger and wife, Kelly, and Cody Ruegger.

Memorial services will be held in: Gardner, Mass. – Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, at 11 a.m. at the Mack Family Funeral Home, 91 Vernon Street, Gardner, MA 01440; 978-­632­0313.

Walla Walla, Washington – Saturday, March 5, 2016, at 10 a.m. at the graveside at the Mountain View Cemetery, 2120 South 2nd Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362; 509-527-­4485.

Hanover, N.H. – Saturday, April 2, 2016. at 10:30 a.m. at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, 40 College Street, Hanover, NH 03755; 603-­643-­3150.

To visit our online guest book go to www.mackfamilyfh.com.

Mack Family Funeral Home, 91 Vernon St., Gardner, Mass. is assisting with arrangements.