Though Frank was kind enough to let me have a lie-in today, I just couldn’t sleep. Instead, I got up, got dressed, and went for a jog. I passed the town’s only other early risers – a dozen or so old men, stooped and shuffling with flat caps on their heads and umbrellas under their arms. I scared a few stray cats and made the narky little neighbourhood dogs bark with indignation. I ran past gorgeous gardens of sky-high foxgloves, climbing sweet peas and massive hydrangeas. I went twice around my usual circle with a determination that is uncharacteristic for someone who dislikes running as much as I do.
They say that running is good for the mind as well as the body, so I’ve been trying to do it at least once a week. There’s certainly enough on my mind today to fuel several more hours worth of jogging.
There was one special friend on my mind in particular – the magnificent Margo Lacy Eccles. You see, I just received word this morning that she had passed away.
When I worked for Heartland Truly Moving Pictures (aka The Heartland Film Festival) in Indianapolis, Indiana, Mrs. Eccles was a board member, donor and volunteer there. That’s the short definition. What she really did, for Heartland, for me, and for the greater Indianapolis area, entailed so much more.
She could be sharp at times, definitely feisty. She referred to herself as Margot, but woe to those who called her anything but Mrs. Eccles! She was very opinionated and very vocal. One did not like to get on the bad side of Mrs. Eccles.
But she was also one of the greatest givers I’ve ever known. She was involved in countless charitable organizations in the arts, music, education, sports, animal welfare and so forth, I was constantly amazed at the time she took to spend volunteering with us, especially as her health was not always good. She was incredibly busy and had so many people demanding her time, it was quite remarkable the personal touch and dedication she brought to each individual project in her care.
I think Mrs. Eccles was the closest I’ll ever get to meeting a queen. She entered a room with a powerful grace, cane in hand, head held high. On occasion, I would have to go to her offices, located in the regal Lacy Building right on Monument Circle. Taking the elevator to her private floor with its unbelievable view always made me a little nervous. I made sure I dressed my best and remembered my manners on those days.
And she could surprise as well – I still get the biggest smile, remembering her zipping around Indianapolis proper on her trusty Segway! It was the little things like this that showed how much fun Mrs. Eccles could be. She had a great sense of humor and was as open-minded and forward-thinking as she was kind.
As intimidating as dear Mrs. Eccles could be, she was warm and lovely and became a dear friend to me in my years at Heartland. When I announced to everyone that I was moving to Ireland to marry one of our filmmakers, the vast majority thought I was crazy. But Mrs. Eccles, in her sweet way, grabbed me in a hug before I left and, with tears in her eyes, said to me, “My Robert and I only had a few years. I hope you and Frank have many happy years together.” This kind farewell meant more to me than I can say and since then, Mrs. Eccles has most definitely been one of the people I think of often when my mind drifts back to the Circle City.
There is a wonderful picture I simply cannot find after tearing the house apart – it is several of us dressed up in funny hats and glasses after our 2006 Closing Night screening of Stephen Frear’s The Queen. It’s one of my favourite pics and Mrs. Eccles is positively beaming in it. Drat. If I find it, I will post it here, so check back. 🙂
In the meantime, my sympathies go out to the Lacy and Eccles families and all of Mrs. Eccles many, many friends. She will be missed incredibly.