October 21, 2005
Quite a life
Blissful Church plans special Sunday tribute to Marie Summers
By IDA CHIPMAN
Marie Summers, left, leads children in a sing-along with Betty Hummel of Bremen. "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" were two popular requests from the Culver Elementary School students.
Tribune Photo/IDA CHIPMAN
KOONTZ LAKE -- Eighty-six-year-old Marie Ruff Summers has been busy all of her life.
Born on a farm during the Great Depression, she graduated from West High School in 1937.
"I was valedictorian of my class," she said, "but there were only a dozen of us."
She went to Manchester College for a year to study business courses, but upon returning home she found jobs for young ladies were scarce and limited to "domestics."
For five years, Marie worked for Leopold Lauer and his wife, Gertrude, as a live-in servant in Plymouth.
"It was difficult for farm girls to find work," she explained. She earned $5 a week.
"They were the nicest people," she said. "They treated me like a daughter."
They ate all of their meals together.
She laughed and described a time when Mr. Lauer came to the table in his long fur coat and hat. He sat down and proceeded to have his meal.
"Mrs. Lauer stared at him; got up and put on her coat and shawl and came back to the table."
Marie giggled at the memory. She said Mr. Lauer got the message. He promptly hung up his outer clothes and, to her knowledge, never did that again.
"Mrs. Lauer taught me many things. She was very particular and a wonderful housekeeper."
Sometimes daughter Helen (Lauer) Rittenhouse would take her to a movie show with her.
Marie moved back home to care of her mother during her illness with cancer. While there, she found a job doing office work with the Indiana Motor Bus Co.
She later worked for 15 years in the office at Miller's Merry Manor.
After she and Gene Summers were married, they had one child, daughter Mary Ann. Gene died of cancer in 1977.
The couple were determined that their daughter would receive a college education. Mary Ann graduated in the first accredited nursing class from Purdue University.
Music played a large part in Marie's life.
It still does.
"When I was 9 or 10," she said, "one of the ladies of our church came to my mother and said she was going to take her son for violin lessons from Bessie Franklin in Plymouth."
Franklin had a sister, Ruth, who gave piano lessons, and Marie was invited to come along.
"I don't know how mother found the money, but off I went. I got to the third book of Presser Co. piano lesson books before we suddenly stopped going.
"I never had another lesson."
You wouldn't know it.
In high school, her music teacher gave her opportunities to perform. She realized that if she listened, she could find the notes, even though she couldn't read the score.
"My ear has been of great benefit," she said.
Marie can play anything on the piano. And she plays the organ in her church. She and Joyce Kaser trade off on the two instruments for services at the Blissville Church of the Brethren.
Forty years ago, for over 10 years, Marie served as director of the Marshall County Purdue Extension Chorus, now known as the "Melody Makers of Indiana."
She has been a part of the chorus for 47 years.
She sings alto in the Choral Club and plays the piano for the "sing-alongs" whenever the present director, Eileen Wright, asks her to do the honors. She enjoys traveling and she likes to cook.
Marie is always busy.
At the Home & Family Conference at Purdue University in West Lafayette this past summer, Marie was presented with the prestigious Patty Hunt Service Award.
On Sunday, at 2 p.m., Marie will be honored for service to her church and community at a reception at the Blissville Church of the Brethren, 6250 Spruce Trail, Plymouth.
The Melody Makers will perform.
Starring Marie Summers.
The public is invited.
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