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Lives Lived: Margaret Pauline Feist, 86

Margaret Feist died in Edmonton of natural causes. She was 86.

Mother, schoolteacher, newspaper clipper. Born Nov. 24, 1926, in Bladworth, Sask., died Dec. 10, 2012, in Edmonton of natural causes, aged 86.

Her parents named her Pauline Margaret, the local priest baptized her Margaret Pauline, but nobody ever called her Margaret or Pauline – she was always Margie.

Margie was ahead of her time. Long before women's issues were discussed in polite company, she often spoke of how unfair it was that women were trapped in roles, told who they were and what they should do. She had no problems with the roles themselves – it was their imposition upon women that made her bristle. Margie wanted to be a wife and a mother, but first she wanted to travel and teach.

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In the mid-1940s, she took a co-ed tour bus ride down the west coast of the United States into Mexico. She visited a staggering number of places. The women slept on the bus and the men tented it outside. Margie assured us it was all quite innocent, but she thought it hilarious how others back home had raised their eyebrows.

Margie's teaching took place in a one-room school house. She would start the day by firing up kerosene lamps, stoking a pot-bellied stove and sweeping out dead mice. She often found the dipper frozen in the water bucket – no drinking fountains then.

Her first arrival at the school house was harrowing. In the middle of the night, she stepped off the train into the complete darkness of the Saskatchewan prairie. A stranger was waiting to take her to the teacher's residence, a long horse and buggy ride away.

After she'd been dropped off and done an hour of sweeping, cleaning and unpacking, there was a knock at the door. Shaking, with a broom in one hand, she cracked opened the door with the other. The stranger had returned bearing a can of kerosene: He figured a teacher would need to read into the night.

After travel and teaching, Margie met her husband-to-be, Tony, and soon there was a baby girl. They moved to Edmonton in the late 1950s and two more children arrived, but Margie kept on teaching. Tony was a railwayman making good money, but Margie insisted. She hired a nanny and endured the neighbours' tsk-tsking about how she "didn't look after her own kids."

Every time she came home from teaching, she would find the neighbours' children playing in her backyard as though it were the local daycare.

After her fourth child, Margie did become a stay-at-home mom.

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It is unfortunate that she never got the hang of computers: For years, she loved to cut articles from newspapers and magazines and mail them. If you liked something, Margie always found an article on it and mailed it to you. She was retweeting before Twitter was hatched.

Once, she sent her daughter numerous clippings on a convicted bank robber who, years earlier, secretly lived in the same apartment complex as her daughter. Margie's daughter used them as bookmarks and forgot to remove them when she took the books to a used bookstore. The bookseller phoned police, who questioned the daughter about her interest in this bank robber. All was quickly sorted out.

Margie was fascinated by people. Even in her last years, she would make the most unexpected friends, such as the heavily tattooed girl in the T-shirt shop. Margie did not love everyone she met. She never said there was good in everybody. But she insisted that everyone had a good story to tell.

Richard Feist is Margie's son.

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