Margaret Carolyn Birkemeier | 1945-2020

Contributed photo

Margaret Carolyn Birkemeier, 75, passed away peacefully at her home on Lopez Island with her family and close friend on Oct. 13, 2020. She endured a five-year battle with brain cancer.

Margaret Carolyn Frazier was born April 17, 1945. She was the second child of Ivan Gray Frazier and Dorothy Belle Felix. Anne was born two years earlier, and Bill would be born in 1947. They grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, where Ivan was the administrator of the Southeast Idaho Health Department and Dorothy taught at Washington and Jefferson elementary schools for twelve years, and then served as Principal at Roosevelt for seven years and then Greenacres for 10 years.

The family liked to travel during school holidays. In July of 1956, after saving coins in a jar for years, Ivan and Dorothy loaded the three children and their dog in a 1950 Pontiac, with no air conditioning, and drove from Pocatello to New York City, stopping at all the significant historical spots. In 1959 they visited Canada for two weeks and in 1962 they drove to Mexico, where Margaret first saw a culture different from her own and found the experience very stimulating. The people, of course, were the most interesting aspect.

Margaret was a 1963 graduate of Pocatello High School. Her senior year she was president of the Pep Club, member of Honor Society, Girls’ Council, and Girls’ State. Margaret was named 1962 Queen of the International Order of Job’s Daughters. She started playing the flute in middle school and played through her junior year of high school. And was voted “Most fun to be with” in senior year.

She attended the University of Denver, where she received the Centennial Scholarship, was president and outstanding member of Alpha Lambda Delta, a national scholastic honorary, chairman of the rules committee of Spurs, sophomore honorary, and member of Alpha Chi Omega, social sorority. She graduated Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in Education in 1967, and was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa honor society that same year.

In 1965, Margaret served as treasurer to the Associated Women Students and her junior year she was elected president of the AWS, where she represented the University at state, regional, and national conventions. She was among nine juniors chosen for “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.”

Most of her interest in college was focused on her majors, education and history, as well as her interest in music. She was “Dean for A Day” during the annual Women’s Week and she was a member of the scholastic honor society Mortar Board. She was chosen for Talarian in 1966.

Children always held a central interest for Margaret, particularly the education of the 5-7 age group. She worked summers for the Operation Head Start Program in Pocatello where most of her children were from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

After college Margaret taught for a year in Colorado, before accepting the Fulbright scholarship taking her to Glasgow, Scotland, where she met Ken Cuthbertson, they would eventually marry and have one daughter, Anneka McKenzie, and then later divorce in 1977.

In the meantime, Margaret’s brother had joined a Gurdjieff Work group in Portland, Oregon, led by Mrs. A.L. Staveley, and encouraged Margaret to meet her. From then on, throughout the rest of her life, the Gurdjieff Work became the foundation of her spiritual life. Over time, her serious engagement with the inner work of the teaching, combined with her innate wisdom, enabled her to help many others in their own search.

The group work later centered around a working farm in Aurora, Oregon, called Two Rivers Farm. There, Margaret met her future husband, Jim, and began their married life in 1981 in a farmhouse neighboring the farm. Their daughter Mary Clair was born the following spring, 1982.

A part of the practices of the Gurdjieff teaching was the establishment of a children’s school where Margaret became one of a dedicated group of teachers, focused upon learning how to teach children to read and write, and learn how to learn. The school’s pedagogy was structured around the Rudolf Steiner approach with an emphasis on art, outdoor play, allowing children to work things out among themselves.

She spent school breaks canning enormous amounts of peaches, pears, and cherries, and making pickles, dilly green beans, and tomato sauce. She learned to make cheese and carried it to an expert level. She dried fruit, made jam, and eventually perfected peach chutney. She was known for her scalloped potatoes and pies.

She loved to read. In the farmhouse, most afternoons she would lie on the couch and catch up on magazine news such as National Geographic, then rest her eyes for a minute before getting dinner in the oven.

Jim and Margaret have three daughters. Anneka, born in 1975 to her Scottish father. Susannah, Jim’s daughter from a previous relationship and Mary Clair, born March 30th, 1982. Their 79-acre hazelnut farm sits north of the Pudding River, on Meridian Road near Aurora, Oregon. It is directly west of Two Rivers farm, where both girls and all Margaret’s grandchildren have walked home from school to Ovaltine and nut butter on bananas. Every grandchild read to grandma, she corrected grammar books and listened to them practice their instrument. Then grandma read, including the complete Harry Potter series to the grandchildren. Only stopping to “rest her eyes.”

In the late ‘90s, Jim and Margaret purchased a piece of land on Lopez Island, in Washington. At first staying in the “shack,” a small cabin with cold running water, off grid, and complete with outhouse. Here Jim planted peaches, Asian pears, aronia berries, and a blueberry patch. In 2001, a home was constructed and Jim and Margaret began to spend more time on Lopez. Margaret supported local artists and filled their living space with gorgeous, handcrafted art. She also supported Lopez Book Store and joined a book club. Jim and Margaret sold walnuts at the Winter Market, and dried Asian pears and frozen blueberries all year long.

Margaret is survived by her husband, Jim; daughters Anneka Millbrooke and Mary Clair (David) Stehman; step-daughter Susannah Malarkey; grandchildren Abigail and Emily Millbrooke, Eleanor and Oliver Stehman; brother Bill Frazier; nieces and nephews Dan, Michael, and James Walradt, Elizabeth (Alex) Scherer, and Isaac, Rebecca and Anna Frazier. She was preceded in death by her parents, sister, and Ken.

Margaret was laid to rest in the Lopez Union Cemetery on Oct. 14, 2020.

To share memories of Margaret, please sign the online guestbook at www.evanschapel.com/obituary/margaret-birkemeier.