Originally created 12/30/04

Music has been bond for couple



LaRue Mangelly has spent more than 50 years as an entertainer and teacher.

Lately, the accordion teacher at Mangelly Accordion and Dance School on Peach Orchard Road has been reminiscing about the more than 1,000 students she has taught during her long marriage to Tom Mangelly.

The couple celebrated their 60th anniversary Friday.

"Since we got married, there was never anything that was hers, never anything that was mine; it was ours," said Mr. Mangelly, 86, explaining what kept the couple together so long. Mrs. Mangelly, who is "a few years younger" than her husband, thinks the secret to their longevity was staying busy.

"We've had a full and happy life here and hope to have many more years that way," she said.

The Mangellys moved to Augusta in 1952 when Mr. Mangelly was stationed at Camp Gordon, now Fort Gordon. When Mr. Mangelly was sent to Korea later that year, Mrs. Mangelly opened the studio where she began teaching accordion and piano lessons, alog with tap and ballet classes.

"We called it elementary gymnastic acrobatics in those days," the Kansas City, Mo., native said.

"At every place we went I established a school. I have had one in Panama, in Germany and several in the U.S. I couldn't speak German or Spanish, but we could get the music going," she said. "You make the best of wherever you are, go with the flow. Don't fight it; add your 2 cents to make it better."

Mr. Mangelly describes his wife as one who "grew up in the Shirley Temple time when a lot of mothers were grooming their daughters to be Shirley Temple." Mrs. Mangelly began playing the saxophone at 6 - unheard of for a woman, especially a little girl back then, she said. She started playing the accordion at 10 and later, the piano.

To help finance her education at Font Bonne College, a branch of the University of St. Louis where she majored in dietetics, Mrs. Mangelly "took an entertainer's contract" during the summer, serving as an understudy for musical theatre star Mary Martin, she said. With the contract, Mrs. Mangelly said, she traveled around the nation and the world as a singer, dancer, comedian and accordionist, once playing with Louis Armstrong. Of all her instruments, the accordion is her favorite.

"You can't take a piano on your back; you can take an accordion everywhere," she said.

While traveling to shows for different military units in 1941, she did a performance in the Republic of Panama, where Mr. Mangelly - a Natick, Mass., native, was taken by her show.

"Remember, at that time, households didn't have TVs and radios; you entertained yourself," Mr. Mangelly said while showing a picture in his wallet of his young, blond wife before they married. "This is what she looked like. Can you blame me?"

Mr. Mangelly said he proposed the next year.

"Every chance I had to come to the U.S., I would run to Kansas City to see her," Mr. Mangelly said.

However, with limited brief visits to the States preventing a wedding, the two "carried on a correspondent romance for roughly three years," Mr. Mangelly said.

Tired of waiting, he decided to make his fiancee his bride on Christmas Eve 1944.

"It was the only time I could get a leave. I got three days off," he said of the 72 hours during which his family planned and arranged a full wedding with more than 100 guests.

"After all, I was a G.I. - and a G.I. was something in those days," Mr. Mangelly said. "This is how two people 1,500 miles apart met, fell in love and got married."

Feeling that their meeting place was romantic, the couple asked to be stationed in Panama again with hopes of having their first child there.

"And so we did. We planned it right out," Mrs. Mangelly said of her son, Christopher, a computer specialist at Augusta Technical College.

Their daughter Christine Meimarides, who has a law degree, once entertained on cruise ships and now teaches belly dancing at the Mangelly dance school.

During the summers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the dance and music studio and part of their home were converted into dorms for Accordion Music Summer Camp, Mrs. Mangelly said. She gave lessons to 100 students who came from Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and other states along with their teachers, whom Mrs. Mangelly also gave "instructions in how to get it right," she said.

Mr. Mangelly retired from military in 1960 and became a jack-of-all-trades, he said, and sometimes gave guitar lessons, which he said he learned to play by ear.

"I'm a janitor, carpenter, electrician and assistant musician," he said.

"He is one of the best accordion repairmen, repairs wonderfully. We still repair accordions," Mrs. Mangelly said.

She gave up the dance portion of teaching 10 years ago but still gives one-on-one accordion and piano lessons Monday-Thursday.

"We marched over 10 years down Broad Street in the parade, with dancers up front and accordion players following," she said.

"It's been so gratifying. And when people would bring their children, I would feel joy. Now they bring their grandchildren - that makes you feel like you've done something good for the community, but, my it makes you feel old!"

Mrs. Mangelly said she is not sure when she'll stop teaching.

"I don't know. I guess when nobody wants me anymore," she said.

Mr. Mangelly had a different answer.

"When she starts pushing up daisies," he said.

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.