Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One Last Ode to Margaret

After half a century of living (give or take a few years) there are times when I look back at my life and wonder at the great and not so great decisions I have made in my life and the results, both good and bad.  Nope, not going to go into the marriage discussion here.  By far the one decision that has had the greatest impact on my life was joining the U.S. Navy (OK, I admit there were times while I was in that I thought it was the dumbest idea ever but that's another story).  In so many ways it changed me and made me stronger.  It was truly the first time I really got out of my comfortable life and pushed myself hard.  Habits I still follow through on today. 

Margaret on the right with
another WAC in London
during the war.
But perhaps the greatest reward of my naval career was a World WAR II WAC named Margaret.  OK, I realize that sounds like a great leap, but... if I hadn't joined the Navy I wouldn't have been a woman veteran who was introduced to Harriet a World War II WAVE who was organizing a group of women veterans in Middle Tennessee who asked me to give a lady named Margaret a ride home one day which began a friendship that lasted 18 years... whew....  Did you follow all that?

I have always been fascinated with World War II both as history and sociology, but I won't go into the lecture here.  And Margaret was a living, breathing encyclopedia of that period.  No, better.  She lived that period to its fullest.  Not a week went by that I didn't spend at least one visit with her and listen to her stories.  In fact, in the mid 90s I introduced her to the world of the internet and armed with her new identity, WW2WAC, she was off telling her stories to the world.  At first timid, by the end of her life, she was answering some 50 or so emails a day and scanning the web for articles she could contribute to. 

Margaret never had children and her husband had died about 5 years before we met.  She lived on the 11th floor of a senior high rise near Vanderbilt where she kept a pair of binoculars near the big picture window in her livingroom.  I'll let you wonder what she was seeing from up there.  But more than anything she loved telling about her wartime experiences.  She frequently spent her own money to purchase women's WWII memorbilia and then turn around and donate those items to university programs focused on that period. 

My buddy Margaret
When Margaret died in 2010 she still had several items that needed to be sent to the WWII studies collection at Florida State University in Tallahassee.  I've been toting these items around in my storage area since I sold the house and finally this week I was able to deliver those items to the archivist who worked with her over the years.  In fact, Joan drove out to my campsite to receive the items and discuss Margaret, who she never met except through the internet, even though she retired from FSU last year.  The lady had that kind of an influence on you. 

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