Pioneer family matriarch Margaret Lotzgesell passes

Pioneer family matriarch Margaret Lotzgesell passes

A mom and a farmer’s wife. A scout leader. A tutor. A community volunteer. A lifelong friend.

It seems easy to run out of words to describe the impact someone like Margaret Eberle Lotzgesell can make, particularly in a small town.

The long-time Sequim resident who belonged to the Dungeness Valley as much as she did her two pioneer families died on March 23 at age 93.

A funeral Mass to celebrate her life is set for 11 a.m. Monday, April 9, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 121 E. Maple St.; rosary will precede Mass beginning at 10:30 a.m.

“She was such a force. Does the word ‘feisty’ describe it?” says daughter Kathy Cunningham. “She had a big life.”

Born July 10, 1924, on her family’s homestead in Dungeness, Margaret was the third born and last remaining direct descendent of Joseph and Elizabeth Weishaupht Eberle.

Raised on the Eberle dairy farm, she would make the walk down the farm’s lane to the Dungeness Schoolhouse for her first eight years of school before moving on to Sequim High School. There she met Dick Lotzgesell, son of another Dungeness Valley pioneer family, and graduated in 1943.

For five years — the only years she didn’t live in Sequim, Cunningham says — she attended Seattle University while Dick attended the University of Washington.

They married on Sept. 11, 1948, and returned to the 92-acre Lotzgesell dairy farm to raise their family and enjoy more than five decades of marriage.

“She had a saying: ‘Bloom where you are planted,’” Cunningham recalls. “She was a farmer’s wife … (and) they had such joy in what they were doing.”

As what Cunningham describes as a kind of personal manager on the Lotzgesell farm, Margaret managed to look after her children — Kathy, Paul, Kris, John and David — along with doing all or most of the cooking, clothes washing and ironing, maintaining three gardens and two orchards, moving hay bales to the barn and, to the working hands on the farm, offering up “bug juice,” a combination of grape juice and lemonade, complimented with fresh cookies.

“Growing up on a dairy farm, you really learn … wise stewardship of the land,” Cunningham recalls. “The busy seasons were spring and summer and … everybody worked hard.”

Her daughter says Margaret Lotzgesell always made sure there was a little extra food just in case somebody stopped by — and that happened often, Cunningham says. The “city folk” from Port Angeles would visit to see what farm life was like in Sequim — then a one stop light town — while neighbors would bring their children over for a ride on the farm’s horses.

When it came mealtime, Cunningham recalls, Margaret and Dick had a rule: Everyone tells at least one thing about their day.

“There’s a lot to be said about family meals,” Cunningham says.

While there was plenty to do on the farm, Margaret had a full schedule otherwise, leading Girls Scouts or helping with Dick’s Boy Scout troop, taking the children for ski boat rides at local lakes or Cline Spit, or dancing with her husband.

In the mid-1970s Dick was elected to the Board of Clallam County Commissioners, and the cows were sold, so Margaret went to work as an administrative assistant to the town’s first psychologist.

Margaret also made many deep connections at St. Joseph’s, Cunningham says.

“To know Margaret was to know how deep her faith was — it starts there and branches out,” says Cunningham. Be it a church leader, a church member she hadn’t yet met or a visitor, she’d introduce herself and look for a way to connect, family members say.

“She embraced everyone she met,” Cunningham says.

A volunteer with a number of community groups, Margaret helped found a local Red Hats group and the Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild. She helped out at the Dungeness River Audubon Center and Railroad Bridge Park. She volunteered at Christmas open houses decked out in vintage clothing, regaling listeners with recollections of her childhood school days.

And, Cunningham notes, she and the Lotzgesell family had a keen interest in education. Margaret volunteered as a tutor and helped with school levy campaigns while Dick served nine years on the Sequim School Board, two as chairman.

Margaret also expected her children to go to college, Cunningham says. The passion stuck with the family: all five children are college graduates and most of the 13 grandchildren are, too.

Dick Lotzgesell was honored as Grand Pioneer for the 2001 Irrigation Festival and died the next year.

In 2009, Margaret was honored as Irrigation Festival Grand Pioneer.

Cunningham says her mother was full of joy late in life, and was helped greatly in her final months through Rainshadow Home Health.

To her final days, Margaret was meeting people and making connections, her daughter says.

“That was a big part of who (Margaret) was,” Cunningham says.

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