This is a picture of Mr. Arnholt. He was my 7th grade homeroom teacher, and for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, music, health, and science teacher too. He was also the director of choirs and organist at our church. A very good friend of the family, as well as all of these things. Since Daddy was principal of the school and Mom was also on the faculty, they worked closely with Mr. Arnholt. In my memory, it was a very close-knit group back then. Family-like. Very supportive and socially active, I remember lots of parties and picnics and family barbecues.
He died on Sunday. He had fallen and broken his neck last month, and was completely dependent on life support. The decision had been made to remove life support (based on no likelihood of improvement of condition), and he gently slipped into the hereafter. Today was his funeral.
It was both an elaborate and yet understated service. Very right, for him. He was the one who impressed upon me "liturgical correctness". I had, up until 7th grade, watched the changing of the altar colors but never gave a thought to the symbolism behind the colors or the embroidered images. We got the whole story as part of our supplemental religion instruction from him. He took us into the sanctuary (it was a Lutheran school, so we were 'attached' to a Lutheran church) and lovingly explained the details of each item on and around the altar, the lectern, the pulpit, communion rails, in the stained glass, even in the narthex where details are easily missed. His words echoed clearly for me in later years when studying ecclesiastical architecture both in Europe on site and in art school back in Cleveland. It was a strong foundation... 'Ein Feste Burg', even... he started for me. Some of my embroidery features the patterns of my faith.
In science class I was less fulfilled. I got yelled at a lot because my easily distracted self was not challenged nearly enough -- I wanted lab time! Merely memorizing the Periodic Table was not the brain-stretching exercize he thought it was... but that's ok! It made me read more on my own time, so perhaps I do owe him more than I think. Still, Mr. Arnholt provided all sorts of other
At some point in your life, I'm sure some responsible adult has told you never stick things in your ears? Especially sharp, pointy things? Well, he (like every other adult) would tell us never ever do that. However, he WOULD do that very
thing! Right in the middle of class! He did it so often it was clearly an absent-minded action. Sometimes it was his keys, his shiny silver pen, or now and again it was his silver letter-opener. This would be done while he was leaning back in his swivel chair. Just crazy! We were all convinced that someday we'd be calling down to the office for one of the secretaries to call and ambulance. I mean, eventually the chair springs would have to give out, and he'd skewer his ear straight through to his brains, right? And, being morbid little 7th graders, we all had to talk about it and speculate about when it would happen and what it would look like. During lunch. That was the 1980-81 school year. I am very
happy to say that this horror never happened. (I would also like to make it patently clear that not one of us actually wanted it to happen, we just assumed that it had
to be a consequence. Such was the degree of our conditioning of "If you do (x=bad thing) then (y=bad thing of greater personal value or greater public impact)"
Shudder. I know that's been true for me.)
Another tremendously endearing characteristic of Mr. Arnholt was his devotion to Cleveland sports teams. He was a Browns season ticket holder for years and years. You could tell immediately during the 10:30 am service if the Browns were in town by the way Mr. Arnholt played the organ. If the hymns were short and with few verses PLUS near the end of the service the liturgy was being played faster than at the beginning of the service, then Somebody On The Organ Bench was anxious to get to the kickoff! Every note got played, though! Every hymn got sung, due diligence was paid to the purity of the liturgy. He was out like a shot for that ballgame, but not before
he worshiped AND made sure the congregation got to have a quality worship experience. It's good to remember his values and priorities. Football (or visiting the zoo or an amusement park or whatever the day's plan) is important. But God (faith) comes first, as do our responsibilities.
He also predicted that the game *after* Lenny Barker's Perfect Game would be a near sell-out (he was right). There were fewer than 4,000 people at the Perfect Game, and he predicted that many more people that would would claim that they were there, for years and years (right again). I thought it was uncanny, the way his predictions came true. I understand pro sports a little better now. I met Lenny Barker this past summer. I'm one of only a few to tell him that I *wasn't* there at that game, and it shocked him. I even told him I wasn't even watching it on tv, which also surprised him. So I explained that I had been listening to it on the radio while doing homework, as baseball was always on the radio in our home, and then I told him about Mr. Arnholt's predictions. He laughed and enjoyed the story. Lenny would have enjoyed Mr. Arnholt too.
Christmas decorations at St. Mark were always so very elegant. Mr. Arnholt had very exacting tastes, everything had to be 'just so'. He out-Martha-ed Martha before there was a Martha, and I believe he and Mr. Gunn (of Project Runway) would have gotten along either extremely well or not at all. I guess what I'm saying is he revelled in the details, yet never lost sight of the big picture. Not many can do that. Best? It always resulted in gorgeousness.
We students were often recruited to refurbish Christmas ornaments. To this day the smell of white glue and dusty glitter takes me back to re-coating styrofoam balls in the back of Mr. Arnholt's classroom after classwork was completed. It was almost always disastrous. I'm still unable to work with glitter without getting some of it in my eyes. I have since learned it's best to avoid it...
The funeral today was very lovely. It really was quite full of love. So many people were there that I remember from so long ago! So many people who wanted to make sure this man we all cared for was celebrated lovingly. And he was. The choir sang -- and Linda MacKay, directing, invited previous choir members up to join in. How could I refuse? It was an honor. Challenging, of course, to sing between the tears. But to persevere is to succeed. It was for the love of a respected teacher and for the glory of God. How could I fail? Anyway, it was very moving. I noticed other choir members sniffling and choking on notes. We all had moments. We all sang despite and because of the emotion. This is what love moves us to do.
Every hymn chosen was a long one, and except for I Know That My Redeemer Lives, every verse was sung for each hymn!! I guess Mr. Arnholt, in planning for his eventual funeral, knew he would have a Saturday when the Ohio State Buckeyes are playing late? ;-) No one at the post-service social was in a hurry to leave, actually. The gathering was so joyful, and the reunions as celebrated as the honored deceased. (I loved, LOVED!!!
seeing so many long lost friends!!) In life, this man really knew how to throw a party, but in passing, he's certainly no slouch of a host! Oh, Mr. Arnholt, you really were quite a guy. The world will miss him, but Heaven's going to have him just in time for Christmas. What a treat for Eternity!
This is longer than I like to post. I think the gentleman I memorialize is fully worth it. I find it strangely hard to end it...
Well done, good and faithful servant. Soli Deo Gloria.
Labels: Cleveland, family, friends, memory, NaBloPoMo, nostalgia, school, warmth