|You painted no Madonnas||You carved no shapeless marble|
|On chapel walls in Rome;||To symmetry design;|
|But with a touch diviner||But with a nobler genius|
|You lived them in your home.||You shaped this soul of mine.|
|You wrote no lofty poems||You built no great cathedrals|
|With rare poetic art;||That centuries applaud, -|
|But, with a nobler vision||But with a grace exquisite|
|You lived them in your heart.||Your life cathedraled God.|
Thomas W. Fresenden
Thus Thomas Fresenden gives voice to the thoughts and feelings of two sisters who have so recently laid away the mortal remains of their mother. The poem quoted from memory, was sent to me by Virginia McQuiston Morris, but the letter of her sister, Mrs. Dell Harmon, written earlier, and out of a full heart, expressed the same sentiment - in her own words. At the outset, let me try to tell you why this compound tribute is being written. It grew out of my desire to learn more about the mother of two women whose lives seem to be dedicated to helping and managing others. Those traits don't just happen. Back of every fine man or woman stands - almost certainly - a fine mother. Because the "McQuiston girls" are so loyal to Saltsburg and her citizens, I wanted those citizens to have a share in this tribute, which is intended to perpetuate the memory of one who deserves a finer tribute than my feeble pen can give. She, who never wanted to be a "shining light," glorified the job of motherhood.
I will confess that I was bitterly disappointed - not to hear from some of you older residents who knew Mrs. McQuiston. But I presume we must take on faith the reticence of some folks who think magnanimous and appreciate thoughts, but shy away from a public display of those thoughts. However, I am most grateful to the two bereaved sisters, who, with their unfailing kindness and generosity, open their hearts, to pay homage to their mother. What a blithe, merry-hearted young woman she must have been! Gifted with a beautiful singing voice, she was to have gone away to a school of music. But when she was seventeen, Alfred McQuiston painted for her the picture of life in a cottage; I do believe she "chose the better part." Still radiantly in love with life, she grew up with her children, teaching them to love every growing thing - "from fungi, weed, and grass to the loveliest rose," as Mrs. Harmon expressed it. She would take her children on long treks to the woods, and on their return, their baskets would be filled with "natural brackets" (those little growths on stumps and trees), wild thorn and crab apple. Then she would entertain them by etching little scenes on the brackets. Queen's lace, iron weed, rushes and milk-weed found their way to a crockery vase at the hearth long before others used such commonplace things to give pleasure. "Beauty in common things" was part of her creed.
Full of music and the love of it, her whole body was "set to rhythm." Both daughters wrote of her love of dancing and skating. She must have been graceful as a gazelle. Even in her latter days - near the end of her journey here - when Mrs. Harmon suggested that they "Indian dance" for the much needed exercise in inclement weather, her mother danced with the greatest litheness and grace - "like a sixteen-year-old." Mrs. Morris tells of her mother's "brimming cup of youthful spirit." She taught her girls and their friends to dance, taking her place at the piano, singing with the crowd, playing for them, and dancing with them. On winter nights she would join them on the ice of Conemaugh river, have a few dashes and turns - then slip home to keep her husband company. Both daughters write of her kindness to wayfarers. Says Mrs. Harmon, "Although she had some frightening experience, no one ever went from her door hungry. Many a junk man was guest in our barn because she begged this hospitality from our papa for him." Mrs. Morris writes, "When we were little children, tugging at her skirts, we got our first lessons in helpfulness from her feeding tramps, giving shelter to those less fortunate than she, taking care of the baby of a woman who worked seven days a week, etc. The love of good music was instilled in the little children, as their mother gathered them about her in the firelight and sang with them the old loved hymns, gospel songs, Stephen Foster folk songs, etc. To the end of her days Mrs. McQuiston sang our national anthem whenever its music came over the air. Mrs. Morris writes with real nostalgia of her childhood home - the crab apple tree in the front yard - of the Lutheran church built on what was the side yard of her home. Rather than regarding it as an encroachment, they learned to love the stately music of that church. Mrs. McQuiston and Mrs. Harry Carson blending their lovely voices to special music. One of the loveliest things in her beauty loving life was the end. Mr. Harmon said the litany for the dying, while Mrs. Harmon "with faltering voice, and flowing eyes, sang, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," "He Leadeth Me" - and, at the very end, "Unfold, Ye Portals Everlasting." And so the brave spirit, released, was wafted on its joyous way, on the wings of song. With gratitude to Mrs. McQuiston, for what she gave to our little world.
One of her beneficiaries,
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 10/14/43 - Clifford and Nancy Boak Erikson
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