Category Archives: religious belief

Betty’s Daughter.

Mum always had her back to us.

This wasn’t deliberate. She was just always busy doing something.

Whether the dishes, the laundry, the floor sweeping, the yard tending, the endless sewing……this was a woman who valued staying on task, until the work was done.

Or, at least, this was how we came to understand her.

In the weeks leading the swift decline from the glioblastoma which took her life, I would modify that conclusion.

Mum had always been a dreamer. A child of the Great Depression, she loved imagining what life would be like outside of the constraints of the reality dealt to her. And, she would indulge these fantasies, with her hands to the plow.

Reaching the end of her life so abruptly, the diagnosis roaring in a rush after vague symptoms not observed by anyone but Dad (whose comprehension of their import were never translated), I imagined that everything Mum had figured she would eventually do would now come sharply into the focus of regret. There was clearly no more time left, to go to France or England. Time would soon be replaced by eternity, and the scope of a state minus any literal framework seemed far removed from anything she could grasp with the view she had learned to accept as vastly finite. Far more appealing to simply ride out on the wings of unrealized dreams.

Like my mother before me, I stood at the kitchen sink this morning, scrubbing away at the countertop beneath the strainer tray, getting down to the stuck on grit neglected for so many months. As I worked, I could see and feel her, doing the very same. Even on Mother’s Day, Mum would gather the bones of her arthritic body, rise up out of bed, the Sunday dinner already prepared the night before, get dressed, wake the rest of us, place the beef roast in the oven, and scurry us all off in the car to Morning Worship, Dad walking alone the two and a half blocks to our mutual destination. Upon our return, the cards and potted plant gifted to her following dinner she would – after a brief, precious nap – resume her work, scrubbing the sink, wiping the stove of its drippings.

On Mother’s Day, to our mother being acknowledged was secondary; she, head of her own household, embodying both commitment and self sacrifice, had already determined that this day, like every other, was her own to spend exactly as she deemed important. And, that she did, to the glory of God, until her final breath and beyond.

Back to work.




Copyright 5/14/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, Betty’s Daughter, whose name appears above this line. Please, share via blog link, exclusively and, if you quote, please cite the source. Thank you. Happy Mother’s Day, Mothers!

The Sins of the Culture.


Three weeks ago Tuesday, an earnest man died.

While raising his family, he and his wife lived socially separate from the “world”, ascribing to a set of beliefs which dictated that they “touch not the unclean thing.”

Such a system of belief came to include his relationship, familial though it was in real time, with me.

That man was my cousin. Though we’d grown up literally around the block from one another, in recent years I would be shunned — never contacted; never included in family gatherings, though remaining the only [ and, solitary ] blood relative still living in the same county.

Apart from one conversation with his wife, circa 1995 (the year mum died, she paying several visits to the house to help with Mum’s hospice care) – I had never actually told him anything about my life, directly. As a couple, they did provide great kindness to my father, inviting him several times for dinner after mum died, and supported an orchestra in which I had performed for many years; but, upon my retreating from that organization in the wake of both a horrid harrassment scene and failure to secure a contract, I could not recall any further voluntary contact from either of them.

In fact, following the final four years of my father’s life, most of which were spent as live in caregiver at either his house or mine, the next time I would see them in person would be when we all attended his nephew’s wedding reception. Though we’d been seated together at one of many round tables, no eye contact was returned and no conversation entertained. Only one comment, from his wife, remained with me, to replay over and over in my head: “You LOOK like somebody I know….?!”

At the time, I remember thinking afterwards that perhaps they’d been repelled by the black, Grecian-styled gown which I’d worn as professional dress at another wedding having just completed performance; typically, the garment was sleeveless, with two bands of stretch jersey meeting at an Empire waist, securely covering both breasts but, by a certain standard, a “plunging” neckline. Though no aspect of my body’s private parts were at all exposed I was, possibly, inappropriately attired for their company. By attending that wedding reception wearing that dress I had committed an offense, against them.


Enmity from God. Disobedience against laws and precepts, as outlined in the Holy Bible.

To the Roman Catholic system, sin is clearly delineated within a hierarchy: Venial, or “lesser” offenses, which include transgressions; all the way to Mortal, those grave, serious and, frankly, felonious. Accordingly, punishments are doled out by means of penance requirements, after the requisite confession.

But among the Christian church’s innumerable outgrowths, from conservative to liberal, sin would come to carry a remarkably malleable definition – and over time, I would learn, subject to a legion of interpretation.

Herewith, the school of my own life.

Back in the late 1970’s, Mum hosted a German boy in our home. Not the typical exchange student, Roland hailed from the Schwelm assembly of our sectarian, fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren fellowship. He had secured a tool and die apprenticeship, of sorts, with the local Penn-Erie Schober, a machine shop owned by a wealthy, Swiss shipping magnate who himself was a member of the Zurich fellowship. Roland worked at the shop during the day, staying with our family nights and weekends and, invariably, attending the Gospel Assembly Hall with us both on Sundays and for every weekday “meeting”.

Roland was tall, blonde, and quiet. His English was halting, most notably his “v” sounds always slipping into “w” like Elmer Fudd. But, unlike his bold, cartoon counterpart Roland blushed, easily. And, he avoided eye contact with most everyone – especially me. I, on the other hand, on the cusp of college swiftly developed a crush, which would last until our tearful goodbye the following year.

My first alarm sounded during one of the earliest Gospel meetings held on Sunday evenings, at the Hall. Arriving just in time, I’d slid into an empty seat just beside him at the end of a row. His countenance ran crimson, his head elevated, nostrils flaring; clearly, my presence beside him was excruciating.

Later, he would disclose: German Christian men and women, both single and as married couples, never sat together during any meetings of the Plymouth Brethren. Men occupied one side of the worship room; women, the other. And, all ultimate relationships were, even still as late as the 1970’s, discreetly arranged by parents of agreeable families.

I was s.t.u.n.n.e.d.

This was the ’70’s. Granted, women’s liberation had not touched the Assembly of the Plymouth Brethren; but, arranged marriages had gone out with the advent of indoor plumbing!

Oh, but no; Roland was quick to intone that the Lord did not condone flagrant socializing between male and female adolescents. And, like all serious brothers of the Brethren, he had a Scripture to support his position.

I don’t remember the Scripture. I do remember his face, his skin, his averted gaze, and his physical discomfort which I had caused simply by sitting beside him.

Eventually, Roland returned to Germany. A few years later, Mum took in yet another German boy from the Brethren. Again, this young man would also work at Penn-Erie Schober. Hans-Jorg was completely different in both appearance and carriage, from Roland. Always smiling, happy, loving the outdoors, his English was fluent; we all enjoyed him, especially Mum who could, at last, carry on lengthy conversations about so many topics for which she was starved. I, however, was away at college, so my interactions with Hans did not include sitting beside him for any reason.

In 1984, I took my first trip overseas, traveling first to Scotland and, from there, across to the European continent. My visit at Roland’s home was brief, toward the end of my time in Germany; but, meeting up first with Hans-Jorg in the town of Remscheid, I’d been entertained at two eateries, one for “spaghetti ice” and the other a classic German pub.

As we sat, awaiting our sumptuous brunch of omelet and salad, Hans ordered a mug of beer. As it turned out, Germans were very keen on their beer, at virtually every meal except breakfast! (In Paris, I’d also been offered wine with dinner, which I declined.) Furthermore, Hans told me that cigarettes were very common in Germany; during the short social time between Morning Worship/Communion and Sunday School, all the men would stand outside, and smoke!

Regardless the decade across American history, the assembly of the Plymouth Brethren in the United States condemned both drinking and smoking. To them, along with s-e-x, these were sins – and, their offenders, living “in sin”. In fact, if one among the closed, accepted fellowship was found to be indulging in either, said violator was “put out” of the fellowship – no longer permitted at “the Lord’s Table” to accept communion.

Yet, here I was, in both France and Germany, among members of the same fellowship, the wine and beer flowing freely, the cigarettes puffed and inhaled at will.

At this juncture, my notion of sin began to evolve. How therefore, I mused, was God to judge anyone, and by what standard? And, if God’s standard was flexible, how could mere humans pass pronouncements of any kind upon one another, Christian or infidel?

Being obedient to the Almighty God takes conviction, determination, and a harnessing of the human will. Knowing how and when one is displeasing God, apparently, depends entirely upon where one lives on the planet.

My cousin is now where he knows, even as he has already been known by his Creator. The place is Heaven, where God sits on the throne and Christ beside him, they one and the same. Easier now to accept three in one, let alone two, in these times of quantum and string theory and non-locality. With God, all things are possible, after all.

One day, time will become eternity. Apparently, repentance is still the order of the day for humans, forgiveness the modus operandi of the Divine and, finally, acceptance.

Given time, how might we mortals hope to define what we can and should mean to one another?








Copyright 4/8/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole, part, or by translation, permitted; sharing my blog link, exclusively, and that not via RSS feed. Thank you for respecting the history of someone other than yourself.

The Elegant Conversationalist.*

[ formerly titled: Philip Charles Marshall. ]

He was the quietest, and most handsome, man in the whole family – next to his father, my Uncle Frank.

Phil grew up in the house across the street and around the corner, on East 29th, with his four siblings: Alan, the eldest; Lydia, after him; then, Lois and, finally, Frannie. They were the Marshalls – and, the whole neighborhood knew the Marshalls.

Phil and I had one thing in common. We lived in the shadow of our older brothers. Alan, his; and, mine, Nathan — these were big shadows. Major extroverts, each of them, and outstanding in both intellect and talent, we would become their keen observers, he far earlier than I and definitely much more wisely.

Phil minced his words. He spoke only when necessary, and always with careful placement. And, like his father before him, he walked. Fast, head down, with that purposeful gait. He walked wherever he didn’t have to drive. And, when he did drive, he selected the avocado green Ford Galaxie 500. The whole family marveled. It was a winner, at $500.

Instead of the wild world of commercial art and marketing chosen by his elder, Phil went to Behrend College to study to become a draftsman and, ultimately, an engineer. Clean; precise; well planned. Like his father.

I don’t know why or how it happens, but beautiful people find each other. Phil was a natural stunner; he looked like Bill Bixby, only with dark brown hair. And, he’d smile only when you’d earned his grin. So, inevitably, he fell in love with Sue. Susan Johnson, RN, the most beautiful woman in the world. That is, according to me, the gangly skinny gawky clumsy cousin, the one who always spoke before thinking, never shaved a single syllable, and clamored like a warped dinner bell for all the attention she could muster. Remember. I said we only had one thing in common.

The day he married Sue, I stood out on the sidewalk of Holiday Inn South, waiting with a pouch of rice like everyone else for the two of them to re-emerge from the hotel room on the second level overlooking the pool. Mum had made Sue’s entire trousseau, aqua was the color that season and, when she finally appeared, bursting with silken floral boat necked Barbie doll sheath beneath that radiant, luminous aqua coat……..Sue was drop dead gorgeous, a star among us.

Phil already knew it. He said not a word. He didn’t have to.

He was taking the prize, on a honeymoon no less.

But, unlike any other man more than willing to objectify a woman, Phil was steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Humility was his middle name, and he wore it proudly. And, the commandment to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it? Phil was already there.

Together, he and Sue would vow to raise a family putting their savior, Jesus Christ, first in everything. Jennifer came soon, a brownie like her father; then, Amy, blonde like her mother; and, lastly, Nat whom, Sue said, she dreamed vividly of before his birth.

After a year or two in Oswego, NY where Phil had found first employ, Sue teaching herself the art of the gourmet from scratch, they would become the first in the family to find a house in Frontier Park; typically, they chose a humble bungalow, on Shenley. Phil was at Hammermill Paper Company, now, getting promoted to site foreman and traveling to Selma, Alabama to supervise a huge mill build. Soon after, they’d move to Wager Road, their green thumbs converging to create a flower garden like no other for miles. And, when big, franchising business wanted to spoil their idyl with some noisy corner truck stop, Phil and Sue spear headed a public protest to protect their way of life – and, won.

Years later, after the kids were grown, Phil would find their ultimate dream: a big old farmhouse, on Rte 5 in Northeast, PA. Sue pretty much died and went to heaven, in that place – wallpapering complete with border print and hand painting from bird houses to decorative chairs until the whole place was as pretty as a B&B in upper Michigan. In fact, when Hammermill was sold to International Paper, they who wanted to move Phil to the midwest, he took early retirement from the paper industry – and, a job at Better Baked Foods* – just so they could stay in the house they’d made into their heaven on the lake.

Though Sue was the “creative”, Phil was not without imagination. The job at Better Baked was a good one but, upon official retirement, he felt a hankering to generate supplemental income and “keep busy”, as our grandmother Mammy always advised. Phil’s neighbor operated a limousine service, so Phil became a driver – chauffeuring all manner of prom dates, wedding parties, and the occasional celebrity to and from the whole county. An excellent listener, along the way among his most memorable cargo would be none other than actor/comedian, Danny DeVito, in town to make an appearance at the annual Tall Ships Festival on the Bay. Methinks Danny found him, equally worth remembering, an elegant conversationalist.

Most of all, Phil wanted to please God, with his every breath.

He did.

He was careful, thoughtful, faithful, and resolute to the end.

And, the end came far more quickly than any of us born of longevity would have imagined. His own mother had succumbed to a cerebral hemmorhage, at age 65 and, while both he and most of his sibs had experienced migraines throughout their lives, his had ceased decades ago. I, for one, would never have guessed that Phil had inherited his mother’s genetic predisposition. He wasn’t like her, in any other way.

But, today, after the very same deep brain event last evening which took his mother, away to attend a wedding in Baltimore she was that year, his spirit escaped a body which could not recover and crossed the bar to greet eternity.

We are all stunned, like every human at sudden death. One day, here; the next day, gone. But, Phil Marshall left this plane just like he lived — quietly; swiftly; efficiently; and, to the point.

We live; we die. Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. That’s what Sue would say.

Phil would have said it, first.




* Given that there is significant factual information about Phil that should be included in this mini bio warranting yet another edit, please allow this addendum:

Phil graduated from the esteemed LeSuer Conservatory of Music in Erie, PA on TRUMPET – performing, according to those in attendance, “Flight of the Bumblebee” to PERFECTION! As a professional musician throughout my own life, never having HEARD him play trumpet is my singular regret! Here is an excerpt, from his obituary; clearly, his life was highly productive, nearly continuously – and, way past retirement age. Read:

“Phil graduated from the Erie Conservatory of Music in 1957 with a certificate in Trumpet and Harmony and Theory. In 1960, he was in the first senior class to graduate from the new Tech Memorial High School (now Erie High). After high school he enrolled at Penn State and then was employed at Hammermill Paper Company / International Paper where he enjoyed a rewarding engineering career for 30 years, and the opportunity to travel throughout the U.S. and Western Europe. Following that, he was engineering manager for eight years at Better Baked Foods in North East. Upon retirement he worked part-time, first as a chauffeur for a limousine service and then for several years as a part-time engineer for Quantum Consulting Inc. where in recent years his work was mainly at BASF in Erie, where he continued into his 78th year of age.”



Philip Charles Marshall 1942 – 2023. God bless Sue, Jen, Amy, and Nat; Alan & Bev, Cheryl & Mark, David & Michelle; Lydia & Richard, Richard & Connie, Charles & Holly, Philip & Rebecca; Lois & Bill, RuthAnna & Micah, Daniel, Andrew, Joel, Ian, Willie, Jamie; Frannie & John, Jacob, Stephen, and Jesse.