Margery Cronshaw 1923-2008

Sometimes, after things have gone amiss and we’re determined to begin anew, we are lucky enough to find people to show us the way. Often their importance is unknown to them, which was the case with Margery Cronshaw, who touched the lives of many women on the lane where she lived. Fortunately, she brought some of us together last year for tea on her porch. Little did we know she would soon be leaving us with nothing but the amazing gifts she had given to each of us over the years.

No matter what we found troubling, Margery saw beyond it. She helped us to look at the big picture, the one most people miss when caught in the throes of loss or unwanted change. Margery listened, she weighed, she measured, and then she laughed-a laugh only a Buddha could offer. “Doesn’t matter,” she would say, instantly freeing us from the grip of whatever consumed us.

A champion of women-particularly those who had lost partners through death or divorce-Margery convinced us that we were great and that the work we did was important. Many mornings, Margery stood in her driveway as one neighboring woman drove off to teach school, waving and calling out, “They need you!” In varied forms, Margery conveyed the same message to each of us. As another of our neighbors lamented, “I’ve lost my greatest cheerleader.”

Margery taught science for many years, at Crane School and at Dos Pueblos High, a profession she loved. She also sang the praises of retirement. Staying in contact with old friends and new, she volunteered for the Montecito History Committee and at local schools until last year. Margery traveled extensively throughout her life, and the breadth of her interests was reflected in the journals she kept. When one of us was dating a former student of hers, she located one of her diaries from decades past and read aloud her reflections about him as a child.

Though her financial acumen was strong, her attitude about appearances and material possessions revealed another side of her. She began scaling down early, teaching us that contact with nature, ideas, and others was far more important than our relationship to stuff. Her last great love was nature; she walked her property and the neighborhood daily. She knew all the secret places, the places only a child would know. It was not unusual to see her, arms outstretched, taking it all in. “Isn’t it wonderful?” she would ask. To her last day, she gathered the fruit that had fallen from neighborhood trees, unable to bear the thought of waste, and it was her habit to share what she’d gathered, leaving little gift packages at the bottom of a staircase or on a doorstep. The day she died, she had hung her laundry on the clothesline, a ritual she loved. Her sheets blowing in the wind were like prayer flags carrying her hopes for all of us through the surrounding hills and down to the ocean.

Though we are lucky, now, to have each other, it is only because of Margery’s generosity that we do. We miss her presence. To commemorate her, we plan to create tiles in her name, each bearing our favorite Margery adage. There are so many, though, it’s going to be hard to choose.


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