Viola Lindblade Moore died at the age of 98 in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she had recently gone to live following rich and rewarding years spent in Hyde Park, Chicago (1956-2014), Detroit, Michigan (1949-1956), Ticonderoga, New York, Montgomery Centre, Vermont, and Wisconsin. She was born in Montclair New Jersey to parents of Swedish birth who then moved to Brooklyn where she spent her childhood. The family moved on to Boston where her father was a minister in the Congregationalist Church, and she continued to live with them through her student years at Boston College where she studied church music and organ.
Her first sojourn to Hyde Park was to the Chicago Theological Seminary for an MA in Religion and Art, where her thesis was on Henrik Ibsen. It was here too that she met and married Robert Sutton Moore after a courting that included a night’s hiatus in jail for not standing up during the national anthem at the Avalon movie theatre in protest of the cruel war cartoon (to hear her tell it) or because they weren’t paying attention (to hear him tell it). They were married in March of 1942 and began a partnership in ministry and music that included official co-serving of some churches, unofficial support duties, double acts marrying and burying (Viola played the organ, Robert sang first tenor), to a time when she finally had her own parish in East Chicago, Indiana. Following on from the halcyon days when a heady mix of existentialism, civil rights and anti war activism dominated the religious community in Hyde Park, she initiated a reading group in her new parish called ‘Theological Questions” that carried on for years. Days before her death, she dictated her last pastoral letter addressing the worlds most recent ills.
While now women are prominent in pulpits of many faiths, it was not until 1974 that Viola was ordained by the United Church of Christ’s Indiana-Kentucky Conference. She later changed to the Unitarian ministry, a faith that had been the centre of the family’s church activity at the first Unitarian Church at 57th and Woodlawn. In all she managed to serve various churches in New York, Vermont, Michigan and Indiana.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert, and her oldest son Henry, who they had adopted during their first ministry in Wisconsin at age 7 in 1943.
She leaves behind 3 children: David Moore (Ann Arbor, MI), Kristin Hay (South Haven, MI), and Rachel Moore (London, U.K.), her foster son Silo Rodriguez and his two girls Jennifer and Krista; four grandchildren Lauren Steele, Sarah Moore, Santiago and Olivia Taussig-Moore, her step grandson Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, and three great-grandchildren: Eric and Ian Steele, and Mia Noah Taussig. She will be remembered for the feistiness and humour with which she challenged convention and authority, and her vivacious will to flourish.
A memorial service will be held on the 24th of June in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s United Methodist Church.