Skip to main content

Marlies von Orelli

Former concerts organiser in Europe

This page exists in:

Her true nature and her struggle with herself in relation to God were duly emphasized.  It was a very rich time. Her friends visited a friend in the hospital, another one showed us her textile creations at her home. Magdalena Kaplanova, a young woman who has been to Caux several times in the last few years, told them with great enthusiasm about the imminent visit of a Russian youth choir, whose director had been to Caux, where she had met her. She was able to organize a few concerts for them in different churches. The result was almost an ecumenical action, since a Catholic church, an Evangelical church and an Orthodox church participated in the event. She hopes that these concerts will be able to reduce the existing gap between Czechs and Russians a little. The new living conditions in the country are not easy. But they also found out that she can buy a lot more than before, for example fruits and vegetables. And many people in Prague are still very friendly! Neither on the streetcar nor in the subway did they let a lady with white hair stand! It was always someone who offered his place. The action programs of the RAM (for example a seminar of "Foundations for Freedom") passed into the hands of the younger generation. This is very encouraging for the future. 

In memory of Marlies von Orelli-Wennner (July 7, 1918 - October 3, 1997),  several things have been written about her mother's life for the church service on October 13 in St. Luke's Church in Lucerne. Monica and Folker worked on these notes with Christoph and me, and Pastor Alfred Kunz (whom we thank here especially for his joyful, consoling and challenging preaching and for the organization of the church service) asked the four of us to read these texts in church. Here are some passages from my notes.

Their mother, Marlies Hildegard Ella Wenner, was born in St. Gallen on July 7, 1918, at the very moment when a wave of influenza broke out. Her older sister describes her as a cheerful and affectionate child who loved nature and movement. One day she heard little Marlies whisper to a fly on the edge of her chair "please, please, dear little fly, run away now!" She was also an avid reader, and devoured books.

As a child, she was independent and made small talk in the living room with her sisters' dance partners and admirers, who were 9 and 11 years older. A real little lady," her sister said. Her father, who was a pediatrician, got along particularly well with her. He would take her on mountain trips, the youngest, so cheerful. She was nine years old when her father died suddenly.

The family moved to her grandmother's house on Dufourstrasse. She loved living in this small house on the Rosenberg with her grandmother, mother and sisters. It was a home where art, especially singing and theater, played a big role. After high school and various "useful" courses, including a course in modern and careful cooking, which she completed with "honors," she trained in gymnastics and curative gymnastics in Berlin and Zurich. She worked in various clinics and hospitals. In her certificate, the head physician at the Rüti Hospital stated: "she is a trustworthy and skilful person, who makes good contacts."

In 1943 she got engaged to Konrad von Orelli, a law student from Zurich. An eventful life followed: in 1946, the wedding took place in the Caux chapel, with the wedding waltz in the ballroom of the former Caux-Palace, a building that both of them, in a spirit they shared with many others, had converted into a conference center in the preceding months. In 1947 their daughter Marianne was born, followed by Monica in 1949. From 1948 to 1960 their family lived in Bern at different addresses. Their mother was a cheerful, sporty mother; she played with us, sang a lot, and it was wonderful to hear her tell or read stories. She patiently answered our thousand questions and frankly admitted when she didn't know the answer. Her quick temper sometimes led to outbursts, more frequent then than later. But what was good was that she could apologize sincerely, even to her children, after the storm had passed.

During this time she participated in Moral Re-Armament campaigns in Nigeria, Scandinavia and Britain. In 1960, they moved to Caux to the little house with the green shutters. In 1965 they moved to Lucerne. Mom adapted well to this change, but in 1968 a new, unexpected and painful chapter began: Dad was diagnosed with an unusual blood cancer. And in 1971, after a visit to the hospital, mom was the victim of a serious car accident, with burns, fractures and other injuries. She was hospitalized for a year and a half and gradually learned to breathe, see, speak, sing and even, to everyone's amazement, walk again. For the next twenty years, their parents' lives were marked by illness and disability.

Their Mom had kept her cheerfulness, her energy, her vitality, her sense of hospitality; her personality had been purified by the ordeal. Dad's death in June 1992 hit her hard, but she was able to regain her fullness of life surprisingly quickly. In May 1994, she suffered a heart attack and a ruptured aorta. For months she remained in intensive care and then had to undergo rehabilitation measures again in Montana. Once again she had to learn how to breathe, sit, walk, talk, pray and even sing (although this time it sounded a little hoarser!) In 1996 she moved to the Wohnheim Wesemlin Home for the Aged. There she fell asleep peacefully on October 3, after a few days of hard struggle against suffocation and pain. In her small pocket Bible, worn out by use, we found many underlined passages. Some were even marked with a thick or double line.

After her accident, when she emerged from a coma that had lasted for weeks, it was these hymns that she asked to hear to regain the courage to live. Another passage that she had highlighted was found in Chapter 12 of the Epistle to the Romans, verses 9, 10 and 12: "Let your love be sincere. Flee evil with horror, hold fast to what is good. Let brotherly love bind you together with mutual affection." Her Mom tried to stay true to that. She only said what she believed to be right and true. She was ready to swim against the tide, to defend her point of view (which she did admirably!), for example, on the subject of education of children and in many other areas. 

She passed away in 2012.

Primary country of residence