“That Margaret Fugate smile,” she said. “I leaned down and patted her arm, and kissed her head. And she looked at me with that big, beautiful Margaret smile.”
Margaret Elizabeth (Nevitt) Fugate of Boca Grande was born on August 1, 1917 and passed away on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Her family was by her side and, mostly importantly, she was happy.
At the age of 96 her health was declining, and she had just been moved to a hospice program in Port Charlotte. After having been a resident of Palm Avenue for 73 years, she took it in stride and enjoyed her family in her last days.
“She was looking at old pictures and laughing with us just before she died,” said her daughter and best friend, Betsy Joiner. “We weren’t even at hospice 18 hours before she passed away. She was walking, up and about, on Friday and Saturday morning. She never complained about pain or anything, she was just as happy and beautiful as always. She passed over into God’s arms as the lady she always was.”
Margaret was born in Washington, D.C. but moved to St. Petersburg when she was in fifth grade. She graduated from St. Petersburg High School, then graduated from Florida State College for Women in 1939 (now called FSU).
After she graduated from college she wanted to teach on an island, and she and her girlfriend were offered jobs teaching in either Puerto Rico or Boca Grande. Because her grandfather had just suffered a stroke, she had to help care for him. She took the job in Boca Grande because Puerto Rico was simply too far away.
In 1939 she started teaching at Boca Grande School, teaching English, as a girls’ basketball coach and as a librarian until the school closed in 1963.
Hazel Presley Singletary, now almost 79, was in her classes.
“I knew that lady my whole life,” she said. “She was my school English teacher when I was in 11th and 12th grades, which would have been the school year of 1951-52. I learned more English from her than anyone else ... she taught us a lot.
“I really enjoyed Mrs. Fugate. She would always have Thanksgiving at Roberta and Robert Johnson’s house with us. She was such a dear – we all loved her to death. She never went around without a smile, and it was a beautiful one. She was always glad to see people, especially her old students.”
Kay Burgess Rackowski was also one of her students, and spent a summer with Margaret in Boone, N.C., where Margaret was working on her master’s degree at Appalachian State.
“She was a great teacher, very humorous, and very fun-loving. She was a delight,” Kay said. “While in North Carolina we shared a log cabin in a ravine, a million miles away from everyone. It is one of my fondest memories, exploring the woods with her.”
When the Boca Grande School closed Margaret started teaching at Lemon Bay in Englewood, which was then an elementary school. She was also the librarian there, and taught Spanish I. Margaret had a master’s degree in English, as well as one in Library Science, and she attained both while she had her two children, Betsy and Lee.
From Lemon Bay she went on to become an audio media specialist, instructing teachers in a five-county radius. Her last professional teaching job was at Sallie Jones Elementary in Port Charlotte. She retired in 1980, after becoming a past president of the National Teacher’s Association, and eventually became a member of the Retired Teachers of Charlotte County.
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