GAFFNEY, Margaret (Baird)
Adult Educator and Community Leader Margaret Baird Gaffney passed away peacefully on July 16, 2008, at Holy Family Memorial Medical Center, in Manitowoc, WI. Born in Chicago, IL on August 26, 1924, the cherished daughter of Rile A. Baird and Laurie Madge Mason, Margaret was raised in Oklahoma City. She was a direct descendant of many who fought in the American Revolution, including Major Elihu Kent, who commanded a company of minutemen who responded to the Lexington Alarm. Surviving childhood pneumonia, Margaret shared her memories of growing up in relative comfort amidst the poverty of the Dust Bowl and how her mother would use wet towels to seal the doors and window against the blowing dust. Margaret spent many long happy summer months in Grand Rapids, in her mother's native state of Michigan, with aunts, uncles, and cousins, including her beloved first cousin, Mary. Graduating from Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Margaret went on to receive her Bachelor's degree in 1946 from the University of Oklahoma where she majored in English, French, and Spanish, and was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's most prestigious academic honor society. After graduation Margaret taught languages at Oklahoma College for Women, in Chickasha, OK. In 1942 Margaret met a her future husband, John C. 'Jack' Gaffney, who as a handsome young Army Air Corpsman, was based briefly in Oklahoma before receiving his orders to the East Coast and the perils of the war beyond. The sparks of their first meeting endured the tests of time and distance, and in the fall of 1949, as a freshly minted law graduate and bar admittee, Jack proposed. Margaret and Jack married in the company of family and friends on October 29, 1949 in Oklahoma City. The newlyweds settled first in Temple City, in southern California where Jack had grown up. Margaret worked as a top-flight legal secretary in Los Angeles, including a stint in the offices of the California State Democratic Party Committee, before moving to beautiful Santa Rosa in northern California in the early 1950's to raise a family. Margaret was a devoted mother and a source of constant guidance and wisdom to her three children, Robert, Anne, and John, instilling in them her appreciation of languages and culture, music and the arts, history and politics, and a love of learning. Spending countless hours sitting through swimming lessons, sewing one-of-a-kind Halloween costumes, tending to scraped knees, preparing wholesome meals and baking wonderful desserts, Margaret made sure that every holiday was even more joyous than the preceding year's. Margaret remained a dedicated educator through her life, teaching part-time in the Santa Rosa public school system, and working for an informed electorate as a member of the League of Women Voters. She was also a member of American Association of University Women and PEO, a sisterhood devoted to promoting educational opportunities for women. Margaret was a tireless advocate for adult literacy, serving the immigrant community through her work over a 30-year period with the Adult Literacy League of Sonoma County. Margaret was a member of the Presbyterian Church of the Roses. Her unswerving Christian faith was reflected in her selfless work, assisting newly arrived families from Southeast Asian and other war torn regions of the world in their struggle to build new lives for their families in northern California. Margaret is survived by her devoted husband, John; two sons and one daughter-in-law: Robert Gaffney, of Walnut Creek, CA, and John and Akiko Gaffney, of Overland Park, KS.; one daughter and son-in-law: Anne and Jon Ring, of Manitowoc; five grandchildren: Sean, Caitlin, Patrick, Natalie, and James; and two step-grandchildren: Debbi and Samantha; and her first cousin, Mary Duncan. Nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends also survive. She was preceded in death by one infant brother: Robert Baird; and one brother: Donald Baird. A memorial service celebrating Margaret's life will be held on at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at the Presbyterian Church of the Roses, 2500 Patio Court, Santa Rosa, CA 95405. Memorials may be made in Margaret's name to the Adult Literacy League of Sonoma County. Info available at www.literacyleague.org.