A Reflection on the Life of Margaret Linton


Margaret Gerhardt Linton 1937-2011

Below is the text of a sort of obituary/biography 1-pager that we handed out at today’s memorial service for my mom. It was initially drafted by my sister-in-law Laura Archer Linton, then the rest of us added on, revised and edited. My cousin Emily Lawrence Mendoza designed the actual flier, using some of my artwork – so I am planning to post the final version at my art blog soon. The service was full of tears, but really a wonderful time to share and catch up with so many folks who’ve been close to my mom and our family for so long. I hope to write more about the service really soon – probably tomorrow. (Updated: you can download the obit flier pdf designed by Emily Lawrence.)

A Reflection on the Life of Marge Linton
by Matt Linton, Joe Linton, Mark Fletcher Linton, Liz Gastil and Laura Archer Linton

Margaret Gerhardt Linton, known as “Marge” to her friends and family, was the third child of William Gerhardt and Mildred Staudenmayer. Marge was born in Los Angeles, on October 23, 1937.

Marge grew up in a very different Southern California, before extensive orange groves and small farms were replaced by the sprawling cities and freeways of today. “Margie” was a tall girl, reaching six feet by the end of 6th grade.  Marge graduated from Montebello High School. She was athletic, a swimmer and lifeguard, and an excellent student.  Marge attended Occidental College, majoring in History, and spending her junior year abroad in Stockholm, Sweden.

In 1959, at age twenty-one, she married “the boy next door,” Peter Linton, a young engineer and Korean War veteran.  The newlyweds spent the next eighteen months traveling around Europe, before settling down in Portland, Oregon.  The couple’s four children, Matthew William, Joseph Russell, Mark Fletcher and Elizabeth Louise were born in Oregon.  The Lintons soon returned to Southern California, settling initially in El Toro in 1966. In 1968 the family moved to the city of Tustin, purchasing a newly constructed home where Marge would live for the next 43 years.

Marge soon thereafter separated from Peter, and their divorce was finalized in 1973. She never remarried. She dedicated the next decade of her life to raising her four children. As a single mother, she worked multiple jobs while returning to school to earn a masters degree in Library Science at Cal State Fullerton. The family was active in the life of Tustin Presbyterian Church, where Marge taught Sunday school.

She drove a bookmobile, worked at Tustin’s public library and for the Tustin Unified School District, before settling down at the University of California at Irvine’s Medical Center Library. She worked at UCIMC for 21 years, serving generations of doctors and especially medical students. She retired from UCI in 2001. Marge enjoyed spending time with her children and grandchildren, reading, and attending cultural events with friends – especially attending theater performances with her close friend Michael Oppenheim.

Marge experienced health challenges in recent years.  She underwent knee replacement surgery, and was treated for a life threatening blood clot. In July 2011, while alone at home, she fell, injuring her head.  She was hospitalized for her final week, never regaining consciousness. She passed away on Sunday July 31st 2011, in the presence of her sons, daughter and eldest grandchildren.

Marge loved books, music, art, good food, theater, and cacti.  She shared that love by introducing her family, friends, and co-workers to great books, art museums, music and theater (especially musicals) that she enjoyed.   Many of us wouldn’t have ever read Wallace Stegner, or braved The Magic Flute or a Stephen Sondheim musical without her insistence that we would love it – or would at least come to appreciate it in time.  Marge loved giving books and music to her grandchildren, and always kept the most interesting and unique children’s books at her house to read aloud when they visited.

Her home is a colorful gallery full of mementos of a life well-lived.  Bookshelves line the walls, stuffed with books she enjoyed, and often lent out.  Numerous pictures of her grandchildren, children and extended family are artfully arranged beside her collections of folk art and keepsakes.  Other walls are covered by her son Joe’s artwork, Japanese prints, and posters from shows she attended. Potted cacti and succulents adorn her kitchen window, and proliferate outside in her yard, reflecting her passion for the prickly plants and their showy blossoms.

It is impossible to encapsulate a person’s life, in all its complexity and richness, in a single page. During her 73 years, Marge was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and grandmother. She was a dedicated librarian, and an aficionado of the arts. She was a hard working mother, who held down multiple jobs while pursuing her masters degree. She was a welcoming hostess, always making room at her big kitchen table for her children’s friends, and friends of friends, and eventually son- and daughters-in-law. She was a loving and generous grandmother to her seven grandchildren. She was also a person of strong opinions and discerning tastes, who did not suffer fools gladly.  She was different things to the many people whose lives she touched.  She will be sorely missed, and long remembered in our hearts.

“Not a day goes by,
Not a blessed day.
But you’re still somehow part of my life
And you won’t go away.”
– from Merrilly We Roll Along, by Stephen Sondheim

Marge is survived by:

  • her son Matthew William Linton, his wife Liz Linton, their children Lauren and Daniel
  • her son Joseph Russell Linton
  • her son Mark Fletcher Linton, his wife Laura Archer Linton, their children Rachel and Owen
  • her daughter Elizabeth Linton Gastil, her husband Tom Gastil, their children Garrett, Miles and Paige
  • her close friend and longtime theater cohort Michael Oppenheim

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4 Responses to “A Reflection on the Life of Margaret Linton”

  1. Melissa Gerhardt Says:

    Im thinking that this must be my aunt….my name is Melissa Gerhardt. My dad, William Gerhardt 111 was her brother 🙂 I was a “late in life baby” for my Dad, and have never really known any of my family on his side. Please feel free to email me

  2. Grace Gerhardt Says:

    I am very sorry to hear of Margie’s passing. My sincere condolences to her family. She was a kind, loving lady. Bill adored her and they spent many hours together reminiscing about their years growing up.

    She was extremely proud of her family and spoke often of them each time she visited us. I know you will all miss her very much, but you have many fond memories of your time with her.

  3. macphrog Debbie McDonald Says:

    I remember Aunt Margie and at least three of her children from a couple of visits to Ca to visit my Dad, Bill, when I was very young. I am sorry to hear of her passing but am so glad you shared her/family with us. Stay safe and take good care of each other! Debbie Gerhardt McDonald

  4. Cheralee Says:

    I came to this post looking for your cousin, Emily, to inquire after purchasing some of her work. I am sorry that it happened to be in reference to your loss. If you should contact your cousin, please have her contact me via http://www.cheraleestover.blogspot.com. Thank you.

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