Margaret A. McCool

image of Margaret A. McCool

Margaret A. McCool

Mrs. Margaret Anna (née Thomasson) McCool passed away April 24, 2018 at the age of one hundred two, in Redmond, Washington.  A lifetime resident of California, and the third generation of a pioneer family, Margaret was predeceased by loving husband James McCool, granddaughter Blythe McPletl of New York, parents Edgar and Mena Thomasson, and siblings Dorothy Burns, Zola Shuman and Edgar Thomasson.  Margaret is survived by sons Douglas (Nancy) and Kelly (Cathy), and daughter Suzann (Larry) Wilson, six grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

Born in 1915 at her grandparents’ house in Anderson, Margaret spent her childhood image of Margaret A. McCoolyears in Chico and Anderson, and most summers near Eagle Lake in Lassen County where their sheep were driven cross- country to the Homestead for summer pasture.  A graduate of Anderson High School and Chico Normal School, Margaret taught in the Redding School District at Pine Street School and Manzanita Elementary, as well as “up the canyon” at Canyon Union Elementary in Lakehead, and the one-room Delta schoolhouse, before Interstate 5 was built.   She loved teaching-I never heard a complaint.  It was her challenge, her focus, her profession-to help educate the students who came to school.

Margaret and Jim married and raised three children in Redding.  Both had keen memories and the gift of bringing to life incidences and experiences from their lives.  These were often shared as their family of five would take drives to the coast to escape the summer heat, and picnic excursions to the mountains to glory in the fresh air and beautiful sights.  The family got up well before the hint of dawn on September 28, 1963 to catch a bus from Shasta High School to take them to the brand new Whiskeytown Dam, as President Kennedy was coming to dedicate it.  Margaret prepared delicious meals for family gatherings at their house-she loved the extended family.  Every year she would take flowers from the yard, add some from the florist, and go to decorate the graves of all the kinfolk in the cemetery.

Margaret was a member of the WAVES in the 1940s and contributed to the war effort image of Margaret A. McCoolas an aerographer.  She made some dear friends for life from that time.  One of her favorite pictures is of herself wearing her white dress uniform.

Margaret was impressive in this way: if she had an idea, she soon figured out just how to accomplish it, and then proceed to do just that.  A favorite sayings of hers was, “take the bull by the horns”.  Once when her brother Edgar was in declining health Margaret drove both of them from Redding to Yosemite and back so he could see for his first time that beautiful area.  Margaret loved to email (the best way to reach the grandchildren) learning that skill at age seventy five, and kept it up until her ninety ninth year.  She became a published author at age 92 when “The Homestead: Edgar’s Story, 1917-1938” was created in 2007.  She made a yo-yo quilt big enough for a queen bed with 1,581 yo-yos all sewn together by hand, in her eighties.  When she had a slipped disc she rigged up a stack of bricks tied together with rope, draped the rope over the arm of the sofa and, laying on the sofa, used the weight to stretch her back and relieve the pressure.

In 1938 Margaret was thirteen years old and chosen by the family to spend the school year at her eldest sister’s house.  Dorothy was married and almost ready to have her first baby.  Mama, in eighth grade, would help Dorothy by bringing the baby to her when it was feeding time, and she helped with chores around the house.  At lunchtime she would run to the house, help out, then run back to school.

She gave her automobile away at age 97, and regretted it, but either hired a taxi, took the RABA, or walked to the store.  Many times she walked to church, a mere three blocks away.  For many of her later years she walked around the block for exercise.  All her life she elected to keep doing hard things.  She would carry multiple bags of groceries from the car to the house in one trip.  She could open a jar of olives with her hands.  All the hard work kept her strong.

Margaret was a fearless seamstress.  Her mother sewed using a treadle Singer, circa 1907, a gift from her husband.  Her grandmother, Nellie Thomasson, hand-made quilts.  Margaret whipped up an entire wardrobe for one of their European trips.  And travel they did, in their retirement years, as they quenched that thirst for knowledge.

After Jim died Margaret would sometimes wake up in the night.  Then she would recite poetry, an exercise for her brain.  One poem was from a college course, memorized and presented as a class project:  Henry Wadsworth Longfellows’ “EVANGELINE:  This is the forest primeval.  The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, stand like harpers boar, with beards that rest on their bosoms…”.  And, “Paul Revere’s Ride”, and “Concord Hymn”, and the Gettysburg Address, and some of her own “rhymes”.  Fueled by her art minor from college, she had confidence and talent in art.  She made ‘cool cards, bridge tallies, and get-well cards for the Retired Teachers members to send when one was ailing.

When their children were small, Margaret would read to them, in her expressive voice, many poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.  She also read “The Last Leaf” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an especially meaningful choice because she became the last of her generation.

“…..and if I should live to be

the last leaf upon the tree in the spring,

Let them smile, As I do now,

At the old forsaken bough where I cling.

The family wishes to thank Evergreenhealth Hospice, Margaret’s family and friends, her bridge groups, AAUW, and the Retired Teachers Redding Branch, for their part in her life.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Shasta Historical Society, 1449 Market Street, Redding, California 96001, shastahistorical.org, 530-243-3720, or Evergreen Health Hospice, hospice c/o EvergreenHealth Foundation, 12040 NE 128th Street, MS #5, Kirkland, Washington 98034-3098, 425-899-1900.

2 Responses to “Margaret A. McCool”

  • Charlotte Nelson Hawley says:

    How incredible that I chose to browse the Record-Searchlight online in mid-June. Truly enjoyed reading about your mom in that obituary and in the obituary above. You may not remember me, but my mother, Gladys Nelson, and my dad, Lester, knew your parents. The 3 of us used to play together while they visited. I still think of you when “The Guns of Navarone” plays on the TLC Channel. We saw that one afternoon at the Cascade Theater. So sorry to hear about your mom, but so wonderful that you had her in your lives for so many years. Sincerely, Charlotte Nelson Hawley

  • Linda and Steve Doty says:

    We have such very fond memories of your mother. My mother, my husband and I all enjoyed socializing and playing bridge with Margaret. She was always so interesting, so welcoming, inclusive and kind to us. Thank you for sharing her life story with us.

    Linda and Steve Doty

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