Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — 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.
In 1968, Marge and Tom decided to fly their own plane to various southern destinations in search of a warmer winter home. They eventually settled for winters in Sun Lakes, Ariz., and the rest of the year at Glen Lake. Marge kept busy volunteering for different organizations but was most passionate about helping and empowering young women. She became a long-time supporter and volunteer for Planned Parenthood and wrote tirelessly about women’s rights, emulating her own mother who had been an active suffragette. Marge was also very active in politics and campaigned for those she believed would truly help protect not only women’s rights but other important issues. At the age of 90, she and a friend decided over coffee that they needed to organize the women of the area to join together and become activists in political issues that affected everyone. They formed the Leelanau Independent Women for democratic Action (LIWdA) which now has a large membership of many talented ladies in the area.
Besides being a pilot, an officer’s wife, journalist, teacher and political activist, Marge was also a nurturing mother to her son, Thomas J. (Diane) Barrett Jr. who resides in Denver, and Linda Barrett Pouncey of Empire. She influenced many young people both as a teacher and as “Mom” to all the kids who would hang out at “the cottage.” She was also an outstanding example to her three successful grandchildren, Holly Barrett, Carl Rogers and Roxy Rogers.
Marge chose to be cremated and will join her husband who passed away in 2004 to become his copilot once more. No service is planned but you are urged to visit Marge’s webpage at www.lifestorynet.com to sign her guest book, leave thoughts, add pictures and stories and join in the celebration of her life. Any memorial contributions can be made in her name to Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan, 1135 E. Eighth St., Traverse City, MI 49686, or to Hospice of Michigan, 900 E. Front Street, Suite 150, Traverse City, MI 49686, whose compassionate care at the end of her life was so appreciated by the family.
The family chose Life Story Funeral Home, Traverse City, to handle the cremation.