Mother. Wife. Sister. Aunt. Teacher. Artist. Edith Montgomery Arbaugh was born on Dec. 16, 1933, in Lewisburg, WV, and renamed herself “Twinkle” at a young age.
As the first child in her family, she carried forward much of her own mother, our grandmother Edith, as she played with and cared for her younger Montgomery siblings, Johnny, Mary, Herbie, and Joan. Endlessly teaching her children – Michael, Linda, Fran, Jimmie, and her granddaughter Chloe – about perseverance and compassion, her quiet strength radiated from her everyday actions. We grew up in the circle of her grace, knowing our father Jim adored and admired her. A teacher at heart, she worked full time while taking care of us all. Whether teaching elementary school in Powhatan, VA, or art in Albemarle County, VA, she was always dedicated to bringing out the creativity of her students and her children. She carved out time to draw and paint, and upon retiring from teaching, her artistic career soared once she was able to devote herself to daily studio work at McGuffey Art Center and in the home-studio built by son Michael. Large watercolor paintings evolved into multiple series, attentive to exquisite details of surface, reflection, and texture. Collecting Victorian clothing from family attics, she painted lace and fabric and folds in amazing compositions; she captured the University of Virginia’s architectural imagery; she explored reflections and refractions of light in silver Jefferson cups, placed on art prints or patterned cloth. Oversized bits of candy, individual fruits and vegetables fill paintings in spectacular ways; myriad items associated with friends and family are inventively arranged to suggest portraits of them; a series on fellow artists reading texts of all different sorts makes up her McGuffey Readers series. Twinkle’s drawings, especially figure drawings, are rendered with a well-honed technique and a keen eye. She continued to paint until her final days, exploring colors and textures in small, exquisitely brushed abstracts. Michael and Jimmie gained her precise technique, translated into fine carpentry and jewelry; Fran, Linda, and Chloe draw and paint. From her, we learned to care about each other and our family.
Twinkle graduated from Lewisburg High School in 1951 and attended Greenbrier College, where she studied art with Jeanne Coyne, graduating in 1953. Upon marrying Jim, she entered the School of Education at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1955. She began her teaching career in Albemarle County, VA, moving for a few years to the Powhatan County school system before returning to teach art in Albemarle County junior high and high schools. She co-founded and designed the art program at Western Albemarle High School when it opened in the 1970s. Upon retirement and still in her 50s, she joined Charlottesville’s McGuffey Art Center, where she kept a studio, exhibited her work, and contributed her service and leadership for three decades. A community of artists has always been important to her – as a teacher among other art teachers, as a studio fellow at McGuffey Art Center, and as a founder of the Central Virginia Watercolor Guild in 1991. An awardee in many juried watercolor shows across the state, region, and country, she held solo and group exhibits regularly in Charlottesville, including at McGuffey. In 2010, she hung the first ever art show in the Rotunda at UVA, showcasing her Jefferson Legacy Series. Of the show and her work, she said, “The silver cup designed in the 18th century by Thomas Jefferson has become a well-known classic shape in central Virginia. I think of the cup as a symbol of life – an eternity of circles – reflecting and becoming part of all that surrounds it.”
Twinkle was preceded in death by her husband, Jim; her parents, Edith and John Montgomery VI; and her brother, John Montgomery VII (Joyce).
She is survived by her four children, Michael, Linda (Tom), Fran, and Jimmie (Lynne) as well as her sisters, Mary (Paul) and Joan and her brother, Herbert (Katy). Lastly, Chloe Kinnahan, her granddaughter, carries on the Arbaugh line for all of us.
The family extends deep gratitude to the staff at Juniper Village Brookline Skilled Nursing Facility for the love and care they gave to our mother in her last 16 months. We also extend appreciation to Grane Hospice Care for caring for her in her last days.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in her name to McGuffey Art Center (https://www.mcguffeyartcenter.com/) and the Central Virginia Watercolor Guild (https://cvwg.art/).
Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com