She came to Orcas Island on the afternoon boat on a clear day in late summer of 1963. The wife of a school teacher and mother to three children, her arrival would change the lives of countless people for decades to come.
Marguerite Rebecca Asper Gudgell came from a well-known family in Salt Lake City, Utah. In her early years she lived an austere but privileged life. Her father, Frank Asper, was a noted musician and the organist for the Tabernacle organ at the Mormon Temple. When Marguerite moved out of the house and into nursing school, he gave her a warning: don’t marry a jazz musician, especially a trumpet player, and stay away from men who drive convertibles.
At the age of 19, Marguerite married Wallace Gudgell on Sept. 7, 1949. Wally, seven years older than Marg, was a jazz musician and a trumpet player who drove a convertible.
In 1963, Wally took a job at Orcas Island’s public school as a music teacher. Marguerite struggled to raise a family — Wally Jr., Mike and Terri — on a $250-a-month teacher’s salary. She worked summers as a maid and waited tables until 1967 when she started the first kindergarten on the island at the Episcopal Parish Hall. A job at the elementary school soon followed.
During the next 28 years, she taught children how to read, write and, most of all, how to live. She taught her children and hundreds of others by example — living a life full of love and compassion. Before her retirement in 1992, she was teaching the grandchildren of the five-year-olds from her first years as a teacher.
Marguerite’s life was not always easy, but in times of tragedy or hardship her character led the way for others. Her choices came out of a deep curiosity and respect for life, a love of family and empathy for those around her. She lived with selfless grace and dignity.
When the Gudgell family first arrived, there were only a few hundred full-time residents on Orcas Island and fewer “islanders.”
Millionaires, waitresses, plumbers or road workers were all equals in 1963, but islanders were a special class. It was a designation that did not come from mere time or presence on the island. It was a term used for those who knew how to live life well. To be an islander was to not only appreciate one another and come to the aid of those in need, but to live by example and light the way to a fulfilling life through giving.
Marguerite was an islander.
She passed away on Thursday, July 22, 2010 at her home near Eastsound at the age of 80. Her illness was quick and unexpected, but she left this world in peace. Her quiet but powerful life touched hundreds of children, their children and their children’s children. Respected by her peers and loved by her family and friends, she leaves a legacy that will last an eternity.
Marguerite was modest. She never sought recognition and was embarrassed by the slightest of compliments. It was her wish to not have a public service. “I don’t want a lot of fuss when I go.”
She is survived by her three children: Wally, Mike and Terri. Her grandchildren are Orion, Stephanie, Rebecca, John, Jessica, Chloe, Jo and Robyn. She has one great-grandson, Mason. She is also survived by her sisters Sylvia, Francelle, and brother Frank.
In remembrance of Marguerite’s life, please consider donations to the Orcas Island Community Foundation, Children’s House or the charity of your choice. Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel & Crematory, Inc.,
To share memories of Marguerite, sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.
— Family of Marguerite Rebecca Asper Gudgell