By: Tanya Chilton and David Broyles Staff Reporters
August 28, 2013
ARARAT, Va. — The Cherry Orchard Theatre is setting its stage for a celebration of the 100th birthday of the late Miriam Levering Aug. 31. In the words of her son, Frank, Miriam Levering was the bilogical mother of six children, but philosophically she played the role of matriarch for thousands.
“The celebration is set for noon this Saturday with lunch at no charge so you can’t say there is no such thing as a free lunch,” said Frank Levering jokingly. “Seriously, we’re doing this because that’s what she would have done.”
Levering’s niece, Teresa Van Hoy, is coming in to share emcee duties for the festival and to cook the lunch. Van Hoy is a history professor from San Antonio, Texas.
“She’s ready to cook for 50 or for more,” said Levering. “Most of the family is coming so we have a good idea what to begin to cook for.”
He said reminiscing about Miriam is set to begin around 1 p.m. after lunch, with family and friends encouraged to bring mementos, pictures and correspondence to share. This sharing is set to run until around 4:30 p.m. with a break for dinner or supper, which is not being provided.
The public is invited at no charge for any of the afternoon events. Participants in the second half of the celebration are encouraged to bring their own picnic dinners, much in the established manner of frequent Orchard Theatre goers. (Levering also encourages participants to bring bug repellent in light of the recent rainy weather.) The cost of the evening entertainment at Miriam Fest is $10.
The evening program will feature singer Melva Houston and local storyteller and actress Terri Ingalls. Houston and Ingalls will perform poems of Dorothy Parker in addition to commentary from Levering. Houston is also set to perform more than seven of Miriam Levering’s favorite spirituals before a performance of the play “The View From Clara’s Porch,” which is about Frank Levering’s grandmother, Clara. Miriam’s nephew, acoustic musician Deane Kern, will then play his guitar to cap off the evening.
A large bonfire is planned after Kern’s performance to allow more time for fellowship and to remember the contributions of Miriam Levering who combined raising a large family and life in an orchard and teaching peace activism on the world stage. Levering describes his mom’s many roles succinctly.
“Back here she never met a stranger and there were many different Miriams,” said Levering, who also said she authored a book titled “Love, Mom” after taking an adult education writing class Frank taught at Surry Community College.
Levering’s work on the Law of the Sea Treaty from 1972-1982 was the crowning achievement of her life of citizen activism for peace and racial integration. The treaty, which was hotly contested, standardized a lot of maritime laws and defining countries’ jurisdiction, in the process becoming known in Washington, D.C., and a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. While teaching at Mount Airy High School, she greatly influenced famed Bears quarterback Lawrence Bullock, who became an Illinois state senator. Levering became a history, civics and geography teacher at MAHS in 1961.
Miriam, who was born in 1913, was the daughter of a Methodist minister in Pittsburgh, Pa., and met Sam Levering who was born in a two-room cabin at the orchard when the two were attending Cornell University. Miriam, who was a debate champion in Pennsylvania, was on the Eastman Stage. Her topic was titled “The Farmer and World Peace.”
“Mom’s premise was that if farmers struck, there would be world peace,” said Levering. “Dad said that was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard and went backstage to tell her so. That’s how they met and they married in the campus chapel in 1934.”
Persons can obtain more information about Miriam Fest and the upcoming celebration of the love poems of Dorothy Parker on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 by calling 276-755-3593.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.