Friend and fellow Life Member Fiona Clark, a member of the World Lacrosse Board of Directors, today paid tribute to International Lacrosse Umpire and Legend of the sport, Marge Garinger, who passed peacefully away 11 December 2019 at 84 years of age.
“A successful life is not a destination, but rather a journey”, and what a privilege it has been to have shared 31 years of this incredible journey with Marge who achieved so very much during her lifetime. Marge was one of the world’s greatest women’s lacrosse officials, with a career spanning over 50 years; she was an outstanding role model for umpires around the world, and a great example of what you could achieve through hard work and dedication. No one journey duplicates another, and Marge’s journey now takes us through a labyrinth of grief, and affirmation, for what she has done for our sport.
Marge’s involvement with lacrosse began as a player at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA, in the program’s second year of existence in 1954. She graduated in 1957 with a degree in Health and Physical Education where she was a standout in field hockey, basketball and softball, lettering in all three sports. In her first year as a high school coach, she introduced the game at Conestoga (PA) High. Her primary interest in the game, however, turned to umpiring, and this was to become her passion. She first umpired at the high school level, and then in 1959 began umpiring at the NCAA college level in both field hockey and lacrosse. She served on the USWLA national umpiring committee for many years. Marge was inducted into the Ursinus Hall of Fame in 1973, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of US Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2004, Marge was recognized with a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Award for 35 years of umpiring, and in 2004 was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. At the State level the accolades continued to flow and in 2006 Marge was inducted into the Luzern County Sports Hall of Fame. which endeavours to perpetuate the memory of local athletes who have brought lasting fame and recognition to the state of Pennsylvania through their athletic achievements and community involvement. President of the Wyoming Valley Women in Sport Society wrote, “Marge is undoubtedly Pennsylvania’s connection to the world of high school, collegiate and international field hockey and lacrosse.”
Marge has been a dear friend of mine since she first came to Perth in 1988 as an International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse (IFWLA) Umpiring Clinician; however, this is not where her love affair with Australia began ~ it was in 1956, when aged 21, Marge was selected as a player on the National USA Field Hockey Team that competed at the World Cup in Sydney, Australia and also toured New Zealand, the Fiji Islands and Hawaii. This wonderful experience was the catalyst to Marge being appointed from 1979–1984 as the Team Manager for the first U.S. Olympic Women’s Field Hockey Team, which won a bronze medal during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Marge’s first IFWLA World Cup was in 1986 in Swarthmore, USA, before coming to Perth three years later where she was one of three ‘Umpires at Large’ at the 1989 IFWLA World Cup, and was Head Umpire in the gold-medal game.
We then served together as IFWLA Vice Presidents, from 1991-1995. Marge led the Rules & Umpiring area with distinction during this time, which also saw her as Head Technical Delegate at the 1993 Women’s World Cup in Edinburgh, and at the inaugural 1995 U19 Women’s World Championship in Haverford, PA. When Joan Wagner took over the reins as IFWLA VP R&U (1995-1999), Marge continued as Technical Delegate at the 1997 World Cup in Japan.
In 1999, the Organizing Committee of the 2nd U19 IFWLA World Championship introduced an innovative ‘Legend’s Program’ with three players and an official chosen to inspire the youth of our sport on their future lacrosse pathways. Marge was selected as the sport’s ‘Umpiring Legend.’
At the Women’s World Cup in England in 2001, Marge was again a Technical Delegate, and after an 8-year absence from world events returned and made her last appearance as a Technical Delegate at the 2009 World Cup in Prague.
Outside of IFWLA World events, Marge continued her travels visiting many countries as a national and international umpire, teacher, mentor and US delegate in both field hockey and lacrosse. As an Umpiring Clinician from 1985-2006, Marge was influential in helping train officials in many countries, including Canada, the Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, Japan, Germany, Scotland and the USA. She also attended European Championships in Germany and the Czech Republic. Nancy Coffman, a fellow International Women’s Official, said recently, “Marge has been such an important mentor, friend and traveling companion to me and so many others over the years.”
Marge’s legend shall indeed continue to live on for future generations of Officials around the world. Marge was a trailblazer for Officials, and she has proven to be an inspiration for generations of Officials who have followed her. In a moving tribute last week Stephen Taylor cited, “I’ve been very fortunate to have known Marge since 1993. She has been one of the most influential mentors in my officiating career, starting in 1995 in Haverford, PA and culminating at the 2009 World Cup in Prague. Her love of family, lacrosse and paying it forward to the next generation is an example to us all.”
During her officiating tenure Marge attended 13 IFWLA Conferences from 1986–1997, and again in 2001 ~ a record only surpassed by six other lacrosse colleagues. Marge has made major and exceptional contributions to women’s lacrosse, and the accolades have continued to flow. In 1999 Marge was celebrated with induction into the prestigious US Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Baltimore, and I was honoured to be asked to present her. Ten years later I was again honoured to present Marge in Prague during the 8th Women’s World Cup with IFWLA Life Membership, as the 6thHonorary Life Member. This was also recognized during halftime of the gold-medal match between the USA and Australia, and I recall us both laughing at how very “appropriate” this game was!
In 2005 Marge was the first Official to be presented with the IFWLA International Honorary Umpire Award, which recognises outstanding, exceptional service in the field of officiating at the international level. International Emeritus was conferred on Marge by the IFWLA Umpiring Committee from 2005–2011.
I know that many of us who knew Marge are feeling a great sense of sorrow, yet we take real delight and satisfaction in recalling the wonderful memories of the times shared with her over many years. In her final weeks Marge was not only surrounded by her loving family, but also her lacrosse family from around the world. Daughter Amy wrote, “It was so wonderful to be able to read to Mum all the love pouring in from around the world!” Molly McIntyre in her tribute wrote, “I feel very blessed that I became involved in Women’s Field Lacrosse when such powerful women like Marge provided such tremendous leadership, motivation and guidance.”
In closing, this tribute is not simply a recognition of Marge’s contribution to women’s lacrosse, it is a recognition of the values and aspirations which are cornerstones of our sport which Marge held so dear: dedication to improving the game for all participants, unselfish contribution of time, energy and ability for the advancement of lacrosse, and a genuine commitment to expanding the horizons of our sport.
The legacy Marge has left shall forever live on. May she now rest in eternal peace with her beloved Arnie.
World Lacrosse passes on their condolences to Marge’s family ~ she will be warmly remembered and deeply missed.
The family is hoping to have a celebration of life for Marge on Saturday 23 May 2020 in Northeast Pennsylvania. The family has requested to please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be notified of this event.
“Death is not extinguishing the light, it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”