My name is Jim Vargo. I was born in Perth Amboy NJ in 1938, and now live in Florissant MO. Perth Amboy was surrounded by oil refineries and smelting factories. It was toward the end of the depression and times were still tough. Mom and Dad worked the best the best they could and where they could. My mother was Polish decent and my father was of Hungarian decent. I have 3 brothers, Bob, Steve and Ronald. In 1945, after the war, we moved from New Jersey to New York City. I was called to the monastic life at a very young age, leading to priesthood when I was 26 years old with the Carmelite Order and my dream was to follow Jesus to share the good news….Many many years have gone by as I have traveled the world and experienced many blessings.
My wonderful wife Jean is also a Lutheran pastor. One year we were both called to pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Traverse City MI, a beautiful city with wonderful wineries and cherry orchards. This is where we met Jerry Wares (Master Craftsman), and his lovely wife Marilyn.
Jerry began making floor harps about 17 years ago.
The reason he began making lap harps came about after he and Marilyn both came down with cancer. Hers was severe enough she needed to be hospitalized. While in the hospital a harpist would come around and play for patients. Once at home Marilyn asked Jerry to buy her a lap harp so she could learn to play. He bought her one but began thinking he could make something better. He named these beautiful harps after their 5 year old granddaughter, “Gabrielle”.
While visiting the Wares one time I thought it would be nice to buy a harp for my wife as an anniversary gift. Marilyn asked Jerry to “put Gabrielle in Jim’s arms”. As soon as I felt it I knew I wanted it. I had never played any instrument before; Marilyn said “Anyone can play this harp”. I started playing and when I felt the vibrations in my heart and my soul there was no question I wanted it for Jean. Prior to our actual anniversary date I stored the harp at our church. One Friday night at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, I was preparing for a wedding the next day for one of my parishioners. I was reading the Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians and decided to pick up Gabrielle and strum while reading this message of faith, hope and love. I’ve never done anything like this before but I took the harp from behind the pulpit. You could here a pin drop. It was such a beautiful experience. After the wedding I took the harp to a nursing facility where I saw a former parishioner. He had Alzheimer’s. After playing the harp for awhile I set it on his lap and he strummed. Later I was told how much he loved playing the beautiful harp. Since then I’ve taken it to many hospitals and homes to give presentations.
The harp can be played by complete beginners and speaks to anyone at different levels. It has been played at many Heart and Healing Ministries around the world. Jerry has made over 400 of these harps over the last 7 years. He also still makes floor model harps. I’m very proud to have Jerry as a friend and honored to tell the story of Gabrielle harps. Learn more about Jerry and the story of Gabrielle by visiting http://gabrielleharp.com or call 314-614-6039. Thank you!
Pastor Jim Vargo