Heartland President Remembers “Mrs. E”

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Margot Eccles cared deeply and passionately about this city, the arts, but most of all people.

It was Margot’s love of film brought her into my life over 20 years ago. A mutual friend and Heartland Board member, Chet Browne, introduced us and I will be eternally grateful to him for making the connection.

People are well aware of the wonderful accomplishments Margot made in her incredible life, so I thought I would share three short stories that show her heart.

Bev Midaugh and I were talking earlier this week and she told me about her first trip to see a Heartland Film – by herself. She had some anxiety about going alone, but had made the trip to the theater. Pulling into the parking lot she started to have second thoughts, but just then she saw Margot—cane in hand, dressed in one of her amazing dresses, walking confidently to the theatre—by herself. Bev took courage in seeing Margot and followed her in. Now she thinks of Margot each time she goes to a movie or event by herself.

As we all know, young people always had Margot’s heart. She loved talking and challenging them. Two encounters with a couple of young staff come to mind. First, Jennie Greer:

Jennie had never formally met Mrs. Eccles, but knew who she was. Jennie had something to drop off at the Heartland office. Running behind she decided that, since she would only be a minute or two, she would park in the handicap parking spot.

As she reemerged from the errand she found Margot with her famous lipstick in hand writing a note on her windshield. She was horrified. She started to explain but Mrs. E stopped her and addressed the issue as only Margot could and walked away before Jennie could respond.

Totally undone, Jennie called me and asked what to do. I told her that writing a repentant note would be a start and that Margot would come round.

Wanting to do something more she turned to Joel Grynheim for help. Joel suggested that the Jewish Tradition of making an anonymous gift in repentance might be a way to soften Margot. So Jennie made a gift to a nonprofit dealing with handicap issues and wrote a note stating what she had done.  Margot was very impressed and as she always did – forgave and forgot.

And then there was Maryann Koopmans first meeting with Mrs. Eccles. A new Heartland staff member to Heartland, Maryann had not been given the heads up that no one called Mrs. E “Margot.” On her first encounter with her Maryanne reached out her hand and said, “Great to meet you Margot.”

Mrs. E, with her classic look that sank a thousand ships, responded. “You may call me Mrs. Eccles.” Maryann was undone. Not only did she never again called her Margot she also made sure that future new staff members in their orientation knew how to address Mrs. Eccles.

And as always Mrs. Eccles forgave and forgot.

Recently Maryann reflected on Mrs. Eccles in her blog. Here is what she wrote:

“As intimidating as dear Mrs. Eccles could be, she was truly warm and lovely and became a dear friend to me in my years at Heartland. When I announced to everyone I was moving to Ireland to marry one of our filmmakers, most thought I was crazy.

But Mrs. Eccles, in her uniquely sweet way, grabbed me in a hug before I left and, with tears in her eyes, said to me, ‘My Robert and I only had a few years. I hope you and Frank have many happy years together.’”

This kind farewell meant more to me than I can say.

And that was Mrs. E: A lover of people and this city, a friend among friends, challenging, determined, loyal and loving. We will all miss her.

Jeff Sparks
President & CEO, Heartland Truly Moving Pictures

Read more about the life of Mrs. Eccles at the Indy Star.

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