Margaret Hollinger, singer, actress, writer and fundraiser, dies at 79

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Margaret Hollinger, 79, of Cochranville, a singer, actress, model, writer and prolific fundraiser for the Episcopal Academy and other local organizations, died on Friday April 15 of complications from Parkinson’s disease at home.

Known around Villanova, Drexel Hill and Philadelphia in the 1940s and 1950s as the “little girl with the big voice”, Ms. Hollinger made her professional stage debut at age 8 at the Academy of Music in the production of the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company. Rigoletto. Naturally vivacious throughout her life, she continued to perform in nightclubs, dinner theaters, cruise ship productions, and on stock, national company, and off-Broadway stages, including as a that daughter of The Fantastic and Lily in Carnival.

Chip Hollinger, her husband of nearly five decades, said Ms Hollinger’s favorite line of dialogue came from The Fantastic“Please God, please don’t let me be normal.” And she wasn’t.

“She was a brilliant woman,” her husband said. “She had a vision and was full of life.”

Later, while raising her three sons, Ms. Hollinger became a prolific fundraiser and innovator at Episcopal, the Académie Notre-Dame de Namur and the Philadelphia Drama Guild. She helped establish the Notre Dame de Namur Development Office and, working as Director of Development and later in the Office of Institutional Advancement, was instrumental in, among other things, securing and funding through Episcopal from its new $213 million campus in Newtown Square in 2008.

Ms Hollinger wrote books about her mother, who died of colon cancer aged 49, and about her own fundraising work. She said in an obituary she wrote to herself that she was most proud of the distinguished service award she received as an honorary episcopal graduate. She wrote that she was “perplexed by the fact that the first half of her professional life was devoted to receiving applause, the second to applauding others”.

Ms. Hollinger studied music and theater at the University of Pennsylvania and the Curtis Institute of Music. She worked with international voice teachers Euphemia Giannini Gregory and Martial Singher at Curtis and was named Penn Outstanding Actress four years in a row.

She became a protege of Metropolitan Opera star Lois Hunt and Broadway’s Earl Wrightson, and studied acting with Uta Hagen at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York. She also worked in commercials and ran a dinner theater production company with her husband.

She was featured in a 2013 story in The Inquirer about her granddaughter, Elason, the first daughter to be born on her husband’s side of the family in 137 years. “We are over the moon,” she said. “I can’t wait to take her to the theater.”

Born December 21, 1942 in Philadelphia, Meg McGarry grew up in Villanova and Drexel Hill and graduated from Notre Dame de Namur and Penn. She met her husband at Episcopal in 1970, and they married in 1973, lived in Bryn Mawr and Merion Station and raised sons Jason, Jonathan and Joshua. They moved to Cochranville, Chester County, in 2018.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, retired from Episcopal in 2012, and has worked as a consultant for nonprofit organizations for the past decade. She wrote in her obituary that she was “in the business of making people happy, giving them the opportunity to ‘give until it feels good’ to support a worthy cause or institution”.

Her sons said Ms Hollinger was “wise”, “sustainable” and “grounded”, and helped everyone she met to be the best they could be. She dressed elegantly for every occasion, sang her favorite show tunes around the house, designed imaginative Christmas cards and inspired others with her suave renditions of hymns at chapel.

“She was all about relationships,” her husband said. “When she met you, she wanted to know everything about you. She was a real person.”

A family visitation is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 22 at Chadwick & McKinney Funeral Home, 30 E. Athens Ave., Ardmore, Pennsylvania 19003. A private interment will follow. A memorial service is to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 23 at the Class of 1944 Chapel at the Episcopal Academy, 1785 Bishop White Dr., Newtown Square, Pennsylvania 19073. A reception will follow.

Donations in his name may be made to the Meg and Chip Hollinger Scholarship Fund at Episcopal Academy, 1785 Bishop White Dr., Newtown Square, Pa. 19073, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, PO Box 5014, Hagerstown, Md., 21741.

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