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Ode to Ormandy
May 15th is the day Old Pine celebrates the wedding anniversary of Maestro Eugene Ormandy and his wife Margaret. They are buried in the Old Pine graveyard amid the remains of Revolutionary-era soldiers and colonial citizens. How did a diverse-faith couple come to be interred in a historic Presbyterian burial ground?
Ormandy, a naturalized American citizen, was conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 44 years. He established the Orchestra’s “Philadelphia Sound,” a lush, velvety string color. A violinist, he said, “Any conductor reflects the instrument he played.” Margaret, affectionately known as Gretel, was also a naturalized citizen, and accompanied the Orchestra on their domestic and worldwide tours.
In 1985, as Ormandy was nearing the end of hospice-at-home care, Gretel asked her husband’s physician to contact a clergyman. He phoned a friend, William Pindar, pastor at Old Pine, who offered words of scripture and comfort. Afterwards, Pindar phoned Gretel, concerned she was grief stricken. A subsequent visit initiated a continuing dialogue between the widow and the pastor. Gretel was impressed by the informal solitude of Old Pine’s graveyard, and chose to make it her husband’s final resting place. A decorative iron fence encloses the Ormandys’ granite marker, carved with their names, birth and death years, and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s harp logo. After Gretel’s death and internment in 1998, by written agreement with her estate, Old Pine is to annually place a dozen roses on the gravestone to commemorate the Ormandys’ wedding anniversary. May 15, 2020 would have been the 70th celebration.
Old Pine is honored to pay tribute to this exceptional couple and their contributions to the world of music and to the city of Philadelphia.
Written by Jane Alling
Old Pine Conservancy
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