GLEN ARBOR — Marjorie Barrett, 97, of Glen Arbor, passed away peacefully at Orchard Creek Healthcare on Aug. 30, 2013. Marge was born April 9, 1916, and grew up in Detroit, the only child of Leona (Shook) Balk and Otto Balk. Her father was a Detroit policeman who was killed in the line of duty when she was only 4 and Marge was raised by her single mother, who instilled the values of being an independent woman that Marge embraced throughout her life.
Marge graduated in 1938 with a B.A. degree from University of Michigan and worked in advertising and journalism, writing for the Detroit Free Press. She became the first woman to earn her private pilot’s license through the Civil Aeronautics Program offered at Pontiac Airport and subsequently met her future husband, Thomas J. Barrett, who was then a Lieutenant with the Army Air Corps and stationed at Selfridge A.F.B. He was so taken by a picture in the newspaper of Marge climbing into the cockpit of a plane with her parachute strapped to her back that he called her for a date. They were married in January of 1941 and Marge remained Tom’s “copilot” for the next 63 years.
In 1942, as World War II escalated, Marge was able to accompany her husband to Panama where he flew on missions to protect the Panama Canal, while she worked for the Military Intelligence Department. At the end of the war, Tom was promoted to Colonel in the newly formed U.S. Air Force and Marge eagerly assumed her new role as “Base Commander’s Wife.” Besides living in Panama, they were stationed at various Air Force bases across the country and also in Japan. Tom’s last assignment was head of the R.O.T.C. at Michigan State University where Marge earned her Master’s degree in English and Journalism. When Tom retired in 1962, they moved permanently to their summer home on Glen Lake that they had built in 1954. The Glen Lake area had always been a favorite vacation spot for Marge and her mother when Marge was young. For the next six years, Marge taught English and Journalism at both Glen Lake School and Leelanau School.