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Joyful giving: Jim and Marilyn Hall are Mount Angel First Citizens

Jim and Marilyn Hall
Jim and Marilyn Hall

By Brenna Wiegand

To recognize their decades of volunteer service, Jim and Marilyn Hall were chosen as Mount Angel’s First Citizens for 2014. They also celebrate their 40-year anniversary this year with eight kids ages 14-38 and 12 grandchildren.

Though Marilyn led Vacation Bible School for 25 years and has hosted a Bible study for 10 years, she is best known as keeper of the costumes the past 27 years – sewing, altering, collecting and distributing some 265 dirndls and lederhosen for Oktoberfest’s youngest dancers.

Marilyn’s an idea generator and collaborator who has seen many of her ideas come to fruition by enlisting the help of others.

On the other hand, Jim is a quiet man – a CPA who only dances if he has to. For the past 30 years, he has lent his talents to many foundations and boards in Mount Angel beginning with Saint Mary’s Catholic Church.

“In the early 1980s, Jim joined the Catholic church, and the next minute he was asked to be on the finance council,” Marilyn said. The projects accomplished include building the parish center and rebuilding the church after the 1993 earthquake.

Next, Sister Antoinette at Queen of Angels – Marilyn’s aunt – enlisted Jim to serve on Benedictine Nursing Center’s board of directors.

Since its inception in 1995, Jim has been treasurer of the Mount Angel Community Foundation, a vehicle for scholarships, flower basket and Glockenspiel funding; building the library and the Mount Angel Festhalle.

“The professional skills Jim brings to these foundations and boards are invaluable,” Chamber awards committee coordinator Nann Fleck said.

“Everybody does their part,” Jim said. “In Mount Angel, you really have to; when you look around there’s a lot that needs to be done and when you see what all the past First Citizens have done it makes you want to do all that you can.

“I know it feels like sometimes you’re giving too much; no more meetings, then you step back and say, ‘No, this is important work and it needs to be done,’” he added.

Marilyn appreciate her husband’s encouragement and support for her projects, which also can take a lot of time.

“People come ringing the doorbell, and he just rolls with it,” she said. “I could never do it if I didn’t have such a generous husband.”

With six kids at the time, you’d think Marilyn would be the last person they’d ask to help with a youth dancing program for Oktoberfest. Little did she know 25 years later her home would become costume central, which she said really started because she had so many kids. She made a dirndl for one daughter; when she outgrew it Marilyn loaned it to someone else…

The exchanges began and before long people were dropping off donated dirndls and lederhosen.

The Halls and their children, front, left, Katherine Olsen, Valerie Boen, Abby Bielemeier; middle, Charlie, Marilyn and Jim, Peter;  back, Martin, Patrick and Carson.
The Halls and their children, front, left, Katherine Olsen, Valerie Boen, Abby Bielemeier; middle, Charlie, Marilyn and Jim, Peter; back, Martin, Patrick and Carson.

But it’s the dancing she truly loves and it was she who saw the need for a high school group – it would be a shame to waste all that training – and went to Jerry Lauzon for seed money.

“…I couldn’t do it alone so I started calling everybody I could think of,” she said. Twyla Blatchford sewed men’s costumes while Marilyn took on the women’s. Somebody put it on Facebook and within two hours they’d recruited five couples, which became eight couples by their first O’fest performance. In the process a young adult contingency emerged; these became the Engelberg dancers, another collaborative effort who made their debut at Wurstfest.

Seeing all the younger siblings wishing to join their middle school brothers and sisters, Marilyn hatched the idea for the kinder dancers. She thought it would be cute for them to dance out of a cuckoo clock and words to a song began popping into her head while out gardening. She enlisted Mike Grant and Rod Hill on the clock; Patty Zollner took the song and ran with it, and Cirra Halter painted the clock. These are just a few of the people who pitched in, and the idea caught like wildfire. Not long after their debut last Oktoberfest, Hall had 42 kids signed up.

“There are two reasons to dance in Mount Angel,” she said. “The first is to have fun and the second is for your audience to have fun watching you – and that’s it. I do want them to dance well, don’t get me wrong, but if they just smile and have fun that’s the main thing.”

She said the way to maximize enjoyment is to plunge into the spirit of the event, whether it’s Oktoberfest, Christmas, Easter or the Fourth of July. “Get involved and you’ll have a lot more fun,” she said. “Why not wear something special? You’d be surprised – if you show up at Oktoberfest wearing a dirndl you’ll get asked to dance.”

She encourages people to act on their own ideas.

“Everybody can probably come up with something,” Marilyn said. “You just come up with an idea and start making phone calls until you find people who’ll cheer you on and are willing to help – and that is how I think a community comes together. People need to be cheerleaders for each other,” she added. “Everything I’ve done has been really fun. Yes, it is work but it’s never all me.”

“We’re cheerleaders for each other,” Jim said. “I couldn’t have done any of my stuff without her either.”

“It’s a good life,” Marilyn said. “It’s a busy life and a noisy life but it’s a good life.”

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