(Oct. 15, 1936-Oct. 22, 2022). Marion Garmel was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, the eldest of Marcus and Frieda Simon’s five children. She began her career as a journalist and editor, writing and coediting her high school newspaper, The Tatler.

Advertisement for Marion Garmel's "Brush Strokes" column in the Indianapolis News, 1973
Credit: Indianapolis News

She graduated from the University of Texas in 1958 with a degree in journalism. From 1958 to 1961, Garmel worked as a public relations liaison for the National Student Association in Philadelphia. She then moved briefly to Paris before returning to the U.S. in 1962 to work at Dow-Jones Publishing’s Wall Street Journal. That same year, in Washington D.C., the Wall Street Journal’s managing editor and Dow-Jones company head Bernard (Barney) Kilgore founded the National Observer. Kilgore hired Garmel at his new publication, making her the first female staff writer there and one of only a handful of presswomen at Dow-Jones Publishing at the time.

At the National Observer, throughout the 1960s, she wrote for the culture section, covering television, pop music, off-Broadway theater, books, and personalities. While in D.C., she met her husband Raymond Garmel, an attorney and urban planner for the federal government.

Garmel moved to Indianapolis’ Meridian Kessler neighborhood in 1970 when her husband took a job as a planner for the Model Cities program under then-Mayor Richard Lugar. In 1971, Garmel joined the Indianapolis News as art critic. She became editor of the “Freetime Guide to Arts” and “Leisure Section” from 1975 to 1998. When the Indianapolis News ceased publication in 1999, Garmel became the theater critic for the Indianapolis Star, a position she held until she retired in 2001.

At work and in retirement, Garmel tirelessly supported local theater, music, artists, and other journalists, while simultaneously keeping her finger on the pulse of happenings in the national arts community. She recognized and championed individuals, such as artist K. P. Singh, potter/artists George and Ilana Debikey, playwright Rita Kohn, and painters Martha Slaymaker and Ellie Siskind, naming just a few.

On the national level, she covered the Beatles landing in America and Johnny Cash landing in Folsom Prison. Garmel raised the profile of many young women novelists, including Joanne Greenberg, Anne Tyler, and Rona Jaffe. She was also one of the first critics to feature groundbreaking sculptor Beverly Pepper and watercolor master Dong Kingman.

Garmel shared her love for the Jewish faith and its people with her family and friends. As an active volunteer for the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, president of the Indianapolis Chapter of Hadassah, and engaged contributor to weekly Torah studies at her temple, she helped foster a sense of community among Jewish people in Indianapolis.

Garmel served as treasurer on the Woman’s Press Club of Indiana board and was a jurist of the National Federation of Press Women’s program for incarcerated women writers. Garmel also served on the board of directors for The District Theater and Indy Fringe. She was a founding member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, DivaFest, and OnyxFest in Indianapolis.

The Professional Journalists Society, Indiana Chapter, awarded Garmel “Best of Indianapolis” for coverage of the arts in 1984, and first place for outstanding contributions in reporting in 2001. In 2008 and 2010, she won the Kate Milner Rabb Award for Professional Excellence and was named a Who’s Who of American Women. In her native state of Texas, Garmel’s alma mater, El Paso High School, created a scholarship in her name, awarded annually to a graduate interested in journalism. 

Revised May 2023
 

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