Margaret A. Mitchell – A snapshot biography, 1927 – 2015
Margaret A. Mitchell, 88 of Baldwin, WI, passed gracefully into heaven on Wednesday, December 23, 2015. Above all, Margaret loved people. She valued friendship and community service. As a wife, mother, teacher, organist, entertainer, volunteer and philanthropist, Margaret affected thousands of people through her generous spirit of love. Margaret had kind words, a friendly smile, and an affectionate hug for nearly everyone. She embraced a life of love and peace.
Funeral services will be held on Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 12:00 noon at Baldwin Christian Reformed Church, 893 US Highway 63, Baldwin, WI 54002. A graveside service will be held on Monday, December 28, 2015 at 1:00 PM at the Mauston City Cemetery, Attewell St and Suldal Rd, Mauston. Contributions can be made in Margaret’s memory to Baldwin Christian Reformed Church or other worthy cause. For further information, contact O’Connell Family Funeral Home of Baldwin.
Margaret was born to Angeline and G. William Wynveen on May 3, 1927 in Baldwin. She will be joyfully remembered by her family: Barbara and Michael Luedeke of Spooner; William and Joan Mitchell of McFarland; Joan and Dennis Schiefelbein of Fall Creek; Mary and Chris Winther of Holmen; Sarah Mitchell and James Campbell of Lancaster, PA; David Mitchell and Maureen Carrigan of Lakeville, MN. Margaret is also survived by 16 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Margaret will be lovingly remembered by her sister, Caroline (Wynveen) Kortness of Eau Claire and her brother and sister-in-law, William and Kassie Wynveen of Florence, OR and their families. She is preceded in death by husbands Robert C. Mitchell of Mauston (1923 – 1979); Stanley Prouty of Mauston (1912 – 1999); and Orval Lokker (1926 – 2004) of Baldwin. She is also preceded in death by her brothers and sisters-in-law Richard and Helga Wynveen, Marshall and Diane Wynveen, all of Baldwin; brother-in-law Vernon Kortness of Eau Claire; in-laws Irvin and Stella Mitchell of Cadot and Roy and Juanita Mitchell of Crown Point, IN.
Here are some memories from Margaret’s family.
Margaret and her twin brother Marshall were born at home on the family farm just west of Baldwin on Highway 12. By all accounts, the twins were so small that they were wrapped in red flannel and placed in shoe boxes next to the wood stove to keep them warm. She had two other brothers, Rich and Bill, and a sister, Caroline. As a young child, Margaret learned how to count to 100 very quickly. Water had to be pumped with a hand pump. The rule was that if she, or her brothers or sister miscounted, they had to start all over. She and Caroline were taught to sew, knit, cook and clean, although she didn’t really enjoy doing any of these solitary tasks. Margaret was much more independent and gregarious.
Margaret attended Franklin School through the eighth grade, a one room schoolhouse where no one got away with anything. All the children in the room were cousins, so whatever occurred spread through the family grapevine quickly. One story demonstrates her competitive nature. Rich and Marsh both had horses. She had a horse too and tried to keep up with her brothers. She kept trying, despite the fact that her horse would only follow the horse in front because it was very old and blind in one eye.
Margaret would grow to become a tall, strong and responsible girl. She played on the girls’ softball team, where she was known to hit the ball hard and far. As Margaret tells it, sometimes she hit it over the fence. In addition to playing piano, she played the French horn in the Baldwin High School Band. The High School Prom is not an easy time for most teenagers. Margaret spoke about two events in her matter-of-fact tone. On one occasion and unbeknownst to her date, his mother had pre-arranged her son’s Prom date with a girl from out of town. Margaret was shocked. Not to be left at home, Margaret agreed to go to Prom with her girlfriend’s brother who was too shy to ask her in person. She bought her own corsage. Her new date wasn’t too shy to dance, and she had a better time than she would have with her original date. With casual satisfaction, she mentions that he spent the night watching the fun from the sidelines. The second story involved an ungraceful ride to the Prom. Margaret had to get out and push her date’s car all the way to the high school while he steered. Margaret graduated from high school in 1945. Later in her life, Orval Lokker would say that Margaret was a pretty good student, based on the seating chart. She sat in the back of the room with the good students.
Living through the depression of the 1930’s, Margaret told stories of how they coped as a family. Milk toast and pickles were standard supper fair, and little girl’s underwear was made out of flour sacks. Her father delivered the mail in addition to working the farm to make ends meet. Times were particularly tough when the barn blew down and was costly to rebuild. Music and reading were entertainment provided by everyone in the family. Proficiency in both were required. Margaret was thrifty, never wasting anything or living beyond her means. The family’s faith sustained them through good times and difficult periods. For Margaret, all of these early childhood experiences instilled an abiding work ethic and unfailing optimism. The building blocks of a sterling character were honesty, fairness, integrity and doing your best work — always.
Central College in Pella, Iowa, is where Margaret achieved a two-year certificate in Primary Education in 1947. A certificate was all that was needed in Iowa, where she taught third graders in Waverly for a few years.When she returned to Wisconsin, she attended the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. Margaret she earned her Wisconsin Teachers License during the summer of 1949.
At the theatre in River Falls, she met Robert Mitchell of Stanley, Wisconsin, in a mischievous way. Instead of getting out of his seat to let Margaret enter the row, Bob pulled her down on his lap. This would be the beginning of a relationship that would last for 29 years. They were married on June 9th, 1950, in Baldwin. Barbara was born the next year while Bob fulfilled his military duty in Korea. Meanwhile, Margaret taught school until his enlistment term was completed in 1952. Bob found a teaching position in Agriculture in Holcomb, where they lived in a turkey barn that was converted into an apartment building. As she told her children later, it was a cold and drafty apartment where Barb and the new baby Bill spent their early childhood. In 1954, Bob was hired as Juneau County’s Cooperative Extension Farm Agent. They moved to Mauston, where four more children would be born within nine years: Joan, Mary, Sarah and David. Margaret and Bob raised the family at their country home halfway between Mauston and New Lisbon on Highway 12. When Bob died suddenly in 1979, Margaret was 52 years old with Mary in college, and Sarah and David still teenagers at home.
After moving to Mauston, Margaret worked as a substitute teacher in the local school systems until 1966, when she was hired part-time by the New Lisbon Community Schools. After becoming full-time, she taught kindergarten there for 25 years.
While teaching and raising the young family of six, Margaret attended summer school at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. She had a very difficult time understanding New Math. She told her instructor that she taught kindergarten children, and New Math would not be in her lesson plan. The instructor told her that if she reported to each and every class, she would be sure to pass. Margaret earned a C, despite poor test grades. By taking a few credits each summer, she earned her BA in Primary Education in 1973.
Margaret said that the goal of the Kindergarten teacher was to instill a love of school and learning. Mrs. Mitchell would do this through lively instruction, song and dance, and story-telling. She was a firm, consistent disciplinarian who didn’t abide rude language or behavior in her own children or students. By the end of her long professional career, Margaret taught nearly 1000 children, some of whom belonged to two generations of New Lisbon families. She was honored by the Class of 1991, who dedicated their year book to her.
Margaret was the matriarch of the family, and taught her children the same way that she was brought up. Her children remember that most Saturdays, while they were doing chores around the house, Margaret was making 20 loaves of bread, two dozen sweet rolls, and six large, cinnamon “twists” to feed her hungry family for one week. In the community, Margaret proudly baked her twists for pot luck dinners and bake sales fund raisers. They were attractive and delicious, so they always sold quickly.
For all of Margaret’s outgoing nature, she was a homebody. She enjoyed day trips, simply saying, “I want to sleep in my own bed.” However, she would always cooperate willingly in distant adventures, provided there were books to read along the way. Margaret traveled with Bob and their young family on camping vacations to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Dearborn, MI, and to visit family in Oregon and Indiana. She traveled with her adult children to Europe, Alaska, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania.
Faith and love of God was part of Margaret’s core makeup. She was a strong Christian and active in many churches over her lifetime. She was the organist and choir director at the First Presbyterian Church of Mauston for decades. During the 1990’s, Margaret was employed as organist at three different churches in Mauston. She would start on Saturday evenings at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and return on Sunday mornings for the early Mass. Margaret would then drive her yellow Volkswagon Beetle to the Mauston United Methodist Church for the 9:00 service, and finish the Sunday morning at her home church’s 10:15 service. Occasionally on Sunday afternoons in the summer, she played for the Ecumenical Services at Castle Rock Lake in Juneau County. Margaret enjoyed many activities at the Presbyterian Church with Stanley Prouty, a fellow member, and they were happily married in 1992 until he died in 1999.
Many of Stanley’s family members lived in South Dakota, an eight to 10 hour drive from New Lisbon, where they lived just off of Highway 12. Margaret and Stanley would pack up the van and spend a week or more visiting. Much to her family’s alarm, Margaret would occasionally help Stanley drive. She would slide over toward the driver’s seat, swing her left leg over the hump to push her foot on the gas while he would unlock his bum knee.
When David went to college in 1981, Margaret found herself alone in a big house. It was very quiet and lonely. She challenged herself to get involved in the community beyond her church. She sold tickets at the New Lisbon High School athletic events for many years, even after she retired from teaching in 1991. She loved to sing, and was actively involved with Sweet Adelines, an acappella choir of 20 to 30 women who entertained in the New Lisbon area. The group was honored by singing in the State of Wisconsin’s Capitol Rotunda for Governor Tommy Thompson.
Sweet Adelines was active for many years. When it disbanded Margaret combined this on-stage experience with her classroom and musical skills to entertain others. She wove bits of news headlines, comedy, popular music and history into a variety show for aging audiences and their families. Margaret leveraged the hours and hours and hours required to prepare for her programs by volunteering several times each month at several senior centers and nursing homes in New Lisbon and Mauston.
In 2000, Margaret returned to Baldwin for a 55th class reunion. She became reacquainted with Orval Lokker, who also enjoyed music and entertainment. When they married the following year and she moved back to her home town of Baldwin, they would perform together at senior centers and care facilities in Hudson, Baldwin and Woodville. Always proud of her Dutch heritage, Margaret volunteered at the Baldwin Welcome Center, a windmill on the edge of town. Margaret and Orval were honored at the Dutch Day’s Windmill Parade, where they were Parade Marshalls. Following Orval’s death in 2004, Margaret continued her variety shows until October of this year. For the last decade, Margaret was performing more than 125 programs a year.
Margaret seemed to have a need to care for others, usually those less fortunate than herself. She volunteered for more than 10 years with Adoray Home Health & Hospice of St Croix County. Each patient became a friend, and she responded to personal requests to sing, read stories or the Bible, or clean homes. Margaret also volunteered at Treasures of the Heart, the retail store in Baldwin that supports Adoray. She may have purchased home goods and clothing more frequently than she made donations of her own gently used items.
In the last few years, Margaret was frequently accompanied to her programs by Francis Dees. Margaret met Francis at the Baldwin Senior Center lunches, where she played the piano and he washed dishes. Margaret thought that this was an admirable skill, particularly in a man. Francis became a close friend who made her laugh and took her on “Hot Dates” to the A&W in Baldwin for Coney Dogs and ice cream. True to Baldwin’s small-town nature, Francis discovered that they were distant cousins. Margaret would fondly admonish him, “Not kissing cousins!” After taking care of so many people over the years, Margaret would sigh with satisfaction when she remarked, “It’s nice to have someone else open the car door for me for a change.” When her leg began bothering her, Francis would hold her hand to provide support as they walked. Margaret confessed to her grandchildren that she didn’t tell him when her leg felt better. “I like holding his hand.”
Margaret enjoyed living. She was a passionate reader with a near photographic memory, and could hold a stimulating conversation with anyone about anything. She was genuinely interested in what others were doing or thinking. Undaunted by the most difficult topic, her own death, Margaret was at peace with this last adventure. She looked forward to being with her Lord. Margaret had no regrets and felt satisfied that she had lived a good, long and happy life. During her final days, she continued to provide comfort to her family, even as they tried to comfort her. She reassured her love and affection for each one of them.
Margaret will be remembered fondly by the countless people she touched throughout her life. She had an unpretentious gift of making people feel respected, loved and worthy. As a wife, mother, teacher and friend, this quality inspired people to respect and love others in return. What higher purpose could anyone could attain? This document is not intended to be entirely a