Work is a Kind of Love

~ wrote Marilyn Monroe in her recently discovered journal

monroe color readingWhile watching the HBO documentary “Love, Marilyn”, my husband Kurt and I were surprised to hear the depth of the intelligence and insight found in Marilyn Monroe’s private thoughts as she recorded in her journals and personal papers. Her screen persona did not prepare us for the searching and self-educated-by-reading young woman who wrote so movingly.

Marilyn Monroe reading a script.

Marilyn Monroe reading a script.

As I heard her, Monroe seemed to be saying that her work was the love that never let her down and that resonated with me. After leaving my nearly 20-year job at the University of Tennessee, I have come to more fully understand the gift that work has been in my life.

I loved working for the university where I essentially grew up–since I was hired when I was only 19 years old. I worked full-time and, by virtual of that fact, received two free classes each quarter which allowed me to work toward a college education I would not otherwise have been able to afford.

Although her formal education was limited, Marilyn Monroe educated herself through reading.

Although her formal education was limited, Marilyn Monroe educated herself through reading.

Knowing for myself has been my passion in life, which I think it was for Marilyn as well. All my life I have been reading, always reading, disappearing into worlds of words and imaginings of others that lived long before me or never actually lived at all. It does not matter whether I am reading fiction or non-fiction because the people I meet in books have educated me as I have shared their real or imagined lives.

Something else I shared with Monroe was the attendant shame that comes with doing without. For her, it was the lack of a real family. For me it was being poor. raised to worry about the next time Daddy would lose his job. Watching my proud parents crying in the car after their Sunday School class had taken up a collection for our family that morning. The powerlessness of not mattering in a society where money and power over your life are synonymous.

But the knowing for myself trumped the not having. My work–and from that my education—gave me a way to clothe, feed, and care for my children as a single parent and a way to ensure they were in loving, safe hands while I worked.

Monroe in the subway when she was taking acting classes in New York.

Monroe in the subway when she was taking acting classes in New York.

But work gave me more than that. It was my life. It was, as Marilyn described, a kind of love that I have missed in my nearly two years of freelance work experiences.

In my final five years at UT, I was promoted by a vice president who gave me a challenge and enough power to fulfill it. I worked with a communications team of four who worked together beautifully.

During one of the many reorganizations that naturally occur in large, complex organizations, our team inherited the university alumni association’s yearbook collection. This treasure trove of memories and priceless photos was perfect for use in the publications we produced to encourage charitably minded people to invest in the university’s programs.

The 1940 yearbook's dedication to "all volunteers to come in the future."

The 1940 UT yearbook’s dedication to “the spirit of all volunteers to come in the future.”

Called The Volunteer after our home state’s motto, the yearbooks had been published every year since 1897, except in 1918 during the first World War. Besides the year young volunteers were lost to trench madness, we found that we were missing one other volume–the exact year of which escapes me now.

Being uncomfortably short only one piece from a complete collection inspired me to invent a way to overcome our loss. Surely there was someone who had inherited a copy of the missing volume and would not mind giving it to us.

It also occurred to me that there were graduates who had misplaced their yearbooks, never bought one and now regretted it, or conversely there surely were people who found themselves in possession of a yearbook or two for which they had no attachment or use.

Loss being the mother of invention, we began placing small blurbs in our publications about our Yearbook Exchange Program. And we got all sorts of queries and many people who had as many as four yearbooks they were glad to send us.

Brum Brumfiel's 1940 senior yearbook page.

Brum Brumfiel’s 1940 senior yearbook page.

We also heard from Oscar Marion “Brum” Brumfiel (his nickname given to him by his buddies in World War II; and yes, his name is correctly spelled without the ending “d”), a gracious 1940 UT graduate living in Minnesota who had lost his senior-class yearbook to water damage. Could we locate a 1940 yearbook for him? Joyously I could report we had an extra copy and could send it to him straight away.

Brum went on to tell me that he and his wife were amazed and elated to find that another UT alum, the incredibly successful football coach Murray Warmath, was in the nursing-home portion of the assisted-living facility where they lived.

Murray Warmath (far left) played end for the 1934 UT football team.

Murray Warmath (far left) played end for the 1934 UT football team.

Warmath had been a standout football player at the University of Tennessee, graduated in 1934, and went on to be a legendary coach who led his Minnesota Gophers team to the national championship in 1960.

Coach Warmath’s wife, Mary Louise, had passed away a few years before. On the days when his faculties were clear, Murray told Brum about his dear wife and how she was a university beauty whose photo appeared with the other lovelies in the college yearbook.

This famous football coach who had won the highest accolades of his sport had no pictures of his dear wife from their time in college, and neither he nor his wife had bought the 1934 yearbook. He so longed to see her again.

Murray Warmath won the coveted Torchbearer award in 1934, the university's highest student honor.

Murray Warmath won the coveted Torchbearer award in 1934, the university’s highest student honor.

I checked our collection to see if we had an extra copy of the 1934 yearbook, and amazingly we did. With great anticipation, I sent the copy, via Federal Express, to the Minnesota address I had been given.

Mary Louise Clapp (center) campus beauty in 1934.

Mary Louise Clapp (center) campus beauty in 1934.

When I next heard from Brum, he described the joyous smile on the coach’s face when he saw his dear wife’s photo, so young and beautiful, just as she was when he met her and as she would always be to him. He could not understand how he came to have the book with her photo, but he was so grateful for this miraculous book that returned his wife to him. I learned recently that Murray passed away March 16, 2011, at the age of 98.

No part of my work gave me more joy than being able to make this sweet man’s dream come true: to see his wife again as she was in his memory. Work has been a privilege for me because it has given me the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.

For me, it was put so very succinctly by a woman known for style over substance: Work is a kind of love.

And so it was. And so it is.

~ Anna 7/13/2013

About aamontgomery

Seeing new possibilities in everyday things
This entry was posted in Autobiographical, Happiness, Love, Photography, Screen, Tribute, Work and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Work is a Kind of Love

  1. Touching and very beautifully written. One of your best blog posts so far! I so enjoy reading your blog posts and seeing how things fit together.

  2. says:

    Thank you so much for this piece. I have just come across it as I googled my father’s name, Oscar Marion “Brum” Brumfiel. Dad will be 97 in May and doing well. He and my mother, who passed away on 2010, lived theirs lives doing small acts of love and kindness. I had forgotten Dad had requested a yearbook for Murray. And, the fact he followed up with you to tell of Murray’s response of joy at seeing his beloved wife, makes me realize how simple acts of thoughtfulness have great power to touch others’ lives. You have touched my life. Thank you again. Laurie Brumfiel Kuyath

    • aamontgomery says:

      Your father is a very special man! We talked on the phone only a couple of times, but I could tell he has always been a shining light! It was a delight for us in the office to look at the yearbooks and see how active Brum was as a leader on campus. He was involved in everything from the harvest dance, I believe it was, to his fraternity and provided leadership to so many groups. And to receive his nickname from his companions in World War II–so touching.

      It was a joy beyond measure for me to help replace your parents’ yearbook that was ruined, and to send Murray a yearbook with the photo of his beautiful wife. Making life better for others is such a gift for the giver as well as the receiver! I really cannot remember anything that gave me more joy during my 30 years at UT than imagining the smile on Murray’s face or the happiness your mother and father enjoyed while traveling down memory lane with their yearbook.

      UT was such a wonderful place in those days: smaller, a family, everyone seemed to be having such a great time in all the photos. I went to UT in the 1980’s, and it made my career possible, but from closely studying the yearbook collection in our office, I decided the 1910-1950 time period was truly a golden time for the students who attended then.

      My former UT co-workers Kathleen and Suzy happened to be traveling through Minnesota a few years ago on behalf of the university and were so privileged to meet your parents. As luck would have it, I am sharing dinner and a movie with Kathleen tomorrow night and plan to share your thoughts with her. She will be so pleased.

      I am sorry to hear of your mother’s passing in 2010. It must be very difficult for your entire family, but, of course, most difficult for your dear father. Please give him a hug and my very best wishes (as well as Kathleen’s and Suzy’s) and let him know that the small (and large) acts of kindness he has done throughout his life have not been forgotten and knowing him in this way has meant so much to me! Special thanks to you for sharing your thoughts with me!

      With a full heart!

      Anna Montgomery

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