One brightly winged orange and black butterfly after another
took flight from a child’s hand, arcing up towards the heavens with
a beauty that reminded me of Margaret Wentworth and the gentle
grace with which she lived her life.
One brightly winged orange and black butterfly after another took flight from a child’s hand, arcing up towards the heavens with a beauty that reminded me of Margaret Wentworth and the gentle grace with which she lived her life.
Friends and family gathered April 24 to mark her loss from our community, and her five great-grandchildren, who knew her as “Gi Gi Ma,” celebrated her life with a monarch butterfly release over Church Street.
The daughter of a Danish immigrant, Margaret Jean Rasmussen was born 90 years ago in San Martin, where she enjoyed growing up on an 80-acre prune ranch. One evening, while out on a date with a suitor, she returned home to find a local boy, Everett Wentworth, seated in the living room in front of the fire schmoozing with her father. Everett knew the key to winning her heart. They were married for 69 years.
Marge and Everett moved to Gilroy to raise their two boys, John and Rick, and daughter, Pam. Always active at her children’s schools, she also took on another demanding task.
“I remember Marge as our Cub Scout leader,” Jim Marlowe recalled. “We were in third grade and would ride our bicycles to her house for our meetings, where she would teach us simple crafts from our scout book. The scout pack consisted of six or seven, including her sons, John and Ricky. She showed the patience of Job dealing with us boys.”
Marge was a whiz with bookkeeping, and she found her niche working in the main office at Gilroy High School. Her warm smile and easy manner put many a young person at ease and led to relationships with generations of Gilroy families. For 30 years, anyone passing through the high school had to go through her. In a sense, she was the face of Gilroy High, and what a kind face it was by all accounts. Upon her retirement, Everett bragged that they had to hire three people to replace her.
Like all of us, Marge knew deep sorrow in her life, especially with the loss of her son, John, in the Vietnam War. But Marge never burdened anyone with her pain; she used it as motivation to make the world a better place.
“I remember Marge as an active member of Gold Star Mothers,” Marlowe said. “She and my mother would go to Santa Clara for meetings, sell See’s Candy at Christmas to buy needed items for military personnel in the VA Hospitals, and give comfort and aid to the Vietnam veterans.”
“She had a look that could stop me in my tracks,” her grandson, Kevin, said. “Never a look of anger but of ‘You should be doing better.’ And I always did.”
It was true for her great-niece, Heather Brodersen, as well. She was inspired by Marge’s service activities in The Order of Eastern Star Magnolia Chapter, the local women’s arm of the Masonic Organization. Brodersen recently achieved a high level of responsibility in the Rainbow Girls and will be representing California in other states.
Marge was in church every Sunday and started every morning by reading a Bible devotional and scripture for the day, but she led by simple example, not words.
“Who she was caused all of us to be better people,” Kevin said.
She also made time for an occasional trip to Tahoe to try her luck with the slot machines. In February, she hit a royal flush and received her first 1099 ever. Her only regret was that Everett was not there to share the thrill.
“Marge was my security reference for job clearances,” a former Gilroy High student said. “Government agents would visit her periodically with inquiries about me and she would always comply with their request.”
Marge made countless baby blankets and mended clothing in her volunteer work with the Women’s Auxiliary at St. Teresa’s Hospital. An entire corps of hospital volunteers dressed in their rose-colored uniforms showed up at the memorial to honor her .
Behind the scenes and without fanfare, Marge volunteered for countless causes and raised money to send local youth to do such work as volunteering on a work program to fix houses on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.
You would never have known that Marge did these things because she never talked about herself – she always seemed more interested in what you had to say.
Rev. Alison Berry said it best at the memorial: “In times so often characterized by selfishness and self-centeredness, it’s hard to relate to Marge and so many of the women of her generation. Perhaps those of my generation can learn important lessons from her – most importantly, lessons about how to love and care for something greater than ourselves.”
We rarely meet people who have such ties to community. As Marlowe put it, “She knew me longer than any non-family member.”
I will miss Marge, a woman I looked up to, a link to the past, an elder and a keeper of the flame, one who added dignity and grace to a world that often feels so cruel.