February 3, 1926 – February 9, 2022
Marjorie Beadles Tuell was born in Tacoma, Washington on February 3, 1926, the third child of Owen and Alta Beadles. Her father was a pastor in the Methodist Church. Like other Methodist pastors’ families in those days, they moved every few years, from Tacoma to Mount Vernon to Chehalis to Moscow, Idaho to Portland, Oregon. Marji graduated from Moscow High School in 1943 and then attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon for two years. She transferred in 1945 to Children’s Hospital School of Nursing in Denver, Colorado to pursue a degree in nursing.
However, late that summer in Colorado, at a gathering of the college Methodist Youth Fellowship, she met Jack Tuell, another native of Tacoma, who was stationed in Denver with the Army Air Corps. They fell in love and got engaged in a shockingly short period of time. When the war In Japan was declared over in September 1945, Jack returned to Tacoma and began his legal education at the University of Washington Law School. Marji came home the next spring, and they were married on June 17, 1946, at Centenary-Wilbur Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, where Owen Beadles was pastor.
They were married for 68 happy years before Jack’s death in January, 2014. During those years, Jack graduated from law school and practiced briefly as an attorney in Edmonds, Washington, when he felt a call into the ministry of the Methodist Church. In 1952 Marji and Jack packed their station wagon up to the gills and drove across the country to Boston University School of Theology. Their three small children were also packed in the station wagon, Jackie, born in January, 1948, Cindy in October, 1949, and Jim in January, 1951. It was indeed a baby boom.
After Jack’s graduation the family returned to Washington where he was ordained an elder and appointed the founding pastor of Lakewood Methodist just south of Tacoma. While raising three kids and taking care of their home, Marji was also active in the church. As well as singing in the adult choir, she directed both a children’s and a youth choir and acted as chairperson of the local United Way fund drive. She went back to college at the University of Puget Sound, which she commuted to from Lakewood in “the Canary,” a 1936 Ford pickup truck painted bright yellow. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Church Music in 1961.
That summer the family moved to Everett, Washington, where Marji earned a salary directing choirs; in the summer of 1967, to Vancouver, Washington, where Marji was active in the League of Women Voters as well as commuting to Portland State University to study Education and then to the small country town of Yacolt, where she taught music to elementary students. In 1972, Jack was elected Bishop of what had become in 1968 the United Methodist Church, and he and Marji moved to the Portland Area. Eight years later it was the Los Angeles Area where Jack served for 12 years until he retired in 1992.
During these years Marji became an increasingly important expert in hymnody. She published articles in Music Ministry and Response magazines and compiled and edited a book, Tell the Blessed Tidings: Hymn Texts by Women. She taught a formal course in Hymnody at Claremont School of Theology and gave many informal presentations at churches and group meetings across the years. Her most substantial contribution to hymnody was her years-long participation and leadership in the creation of the 1989 edition of The United Methodist Hymnal, which currently stocks the pews in virtually every United Methodist Church in the US and many UM churches around the world. She was the chair of the Texts Committee, where she oversaw the choice of hymn verses, the wording of texts to eliminate where possible sexist language— “Good Christian Friends Rejoice,” for example, instead of “Good Christian Men”—and such mundane essential work as proofreading and making sure the syllables line up with the correct notes so everyone can sing the same words at the same time. She also put together the Hymnal’s Topical Index.
She was a world-traveler, visiting every continent except Antarctica at least once. She had friends in India, in Korea, in Africa, in the Philippines. Yet she and Jack happily retired to Whidbey Island, sang in the choir at the Coupeville United Methodist Church, picked wild blackberries and made blackberry jam. She lived for the last 23 years of her life at Wesley Terrace, a retirement home in Des Moines, reading and rereading many books, playing fierce Scrabble, Rack-O, and Boggle games, learning to follow folks and post on Facebook, enjoying her family and her friends. On her 96th birthday on Thursday, February 3 this year, twelve of her children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews joined her via Zoom at the Wesley Health Center nursing facility where she had been since October. She was happy to see all of us; she smiled and laughed, asked questions and answered them, and then spent the rest of the day bragging to her fellow patients about her wonderful party. By Tuesday she was ill with a fever and low blood pressure, and early Wednesday morning, February 9, she died.
She is survived by her brother, David Beadles of Mission Viejo, CA; three children and a daughter-in-law, Jackie Tuell Joday of Onalaska, WI; Cynthia Tuell of Upland, CA, and Jim and Lois Ann Tuell of Lexington, SC. She leaves three grandsons, Mike, Jon, and Matthew Tuell; two granddaughters, Dana Sartain and Robin Edwards, and three great-grandsons, Jack Tuell and Seth and Drake Sartain. She also leaves behind many nieces and nephews in both the Beadles and Tuell families. She will be missed by her friends, fellow and sister clergy, congregation members, and by Jackie’s stepfamily in the Midwest.
Her granddaughter Robin Edwards wrote about her on Facebook, “My grandma was a force. She laughed with her whole body, was a voracious reader, and she could kick your butt at Scrabble any day of the week up to the day she died. I love you forever grandma. I hope you and grandpa are laughing it up in heaven.” Amen!
A memorial service for Marjorie Tuell was held on Wednesday, April 6, at 2 p.m. at the Des Moines United Methodist Church, 22225 9th Ave S, Des Moines, WA 98198. The service is available to view online on the Des Moines UMC YouTube channel.
Memorial gifts may be made to the United Methodist Committee on Relief at umcmission.org, or mailed to Global Ministries/UMCOR, GPO, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Or you may give to support United Methodist Church pastors in the Pacific-Northwest Conference at the PNW Sustentation Fund, PO Box 13650, 816 S 216th St #2, Des Moines, WA 98198.