Memories of Margo – Celebrating her Life

There are all sorts of love—filial, quarrelsome, starstruck, unrequited, platonic, big. Woven like a Roebling cable, Margo Macartney had them all, coming and going, in spades.

As she lay dying, a ring of us (Sharon, Hugh, Linda B., Carol, and I) commandeered the modest living room—a tired faux suede couch, a recliner, some straight back chairs. We swapped stories we have retold each other for decades. Phone callers were put on speaker to add their shaggy dogs, “thoughts and prayers.”

Margo’s partner, Helise, whispered to her, “Is this racket bothering you?” “No. This is happy noise.”

Among the Bisbees who swung by was Katie. When she was in a jam, twenty-five years ago, Margo was her public defender. Lucky for the twenty-six-year-old Katie, Margo was a staunch advocate with a sharp eye and ear. She too was twenty-six when she kicked dope in Synanon thirty-five years earlier. “Twenty-six is a good age to quit using.” Such advice can turn someone on a dime. Katie turned on that dime and they remained close.

Margo would agree that all you have is time and love. She gave and gave back. And she will keep doing so.

If the dead are fond of you, they stick around. For one thing, it’s easier to confide in them (Poor Richard: “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” )

Margo was our friend and part of our family in and out of Synanon. Margo moved to Reno, NV after she left Synanon, where Bill and I lived. She said she wanted to be around us. We were glad she was there.

She attended every Thanksgiving Dinner, every Christmas brunch and every birthday celebration. Rebekah and Naomi visited us during most of the holidays and Margo would always be there.

In Reno, NV, Bill and I co-directed the Nevada Hills Children’s Home, a group home for troubled boys. When the owners said to close it down, Bill found a buyer and created a Board of Directors. Margo immediately stepped up to become a board member. BTW, Jimmy Haw was our cook and counselor.

Margo attended law school in Reno. She could do anything she decided to do. She passed the Nevada Bar on her first try (Not easily done.) She was licensed to practice law in three states, Nevada, California and Arizona.

In the Yiddish vernacular, Margo was a “mensch”. She didn’t let public opinion or even Synanon opinion decide how she would treat people.

Her deepest impact on me was on the afternoon Margo happened to be riding her bike down the road in Tamales Bay. Bill and I were driving to the Ranch to pick up Nomi and Rebekah for our court approved visits.

We were nervous.

She saw us and stopped. We rolled down the window to talk with her. She asked how we were doing? It meant a lot that she cared and was friendly. Synanon had been our family yet now we felt like strangers or worse yet enemies. It was hard.

Margo had style in so many ways: she looked great in the clothes she wore, she was athletic and artistic. In addition, she was one of the most kind, caring, and empathetic humans I’ve ever known.

In 2022, I took a cross-country trip. One important stop on this journey was to spend some time with Margo in Bisbee, AZ. I met Helise, her partner, stayed at her house and got to experience Margo’s energy. She was writing, making pottery, singing in a choir, volunteering and helping wherever she could.

I am so glad I got to spend this time with her.

She gave me a few pieces of her pottery to take home with me. I will treasure them Forever, as I do her.

One response to “Memories of Margo – Celebrating her Life”

  1. Thanks Josh and Forrest, those were stories that needed to be told. There were a lot of years that have passed and Lord only knows how difficult it is to keep up with most of us until it’s too late to do it personally. I enjoyed your recollections at a time to rejoice in the spirit of Margo and her journey that she so graciously shared with many of us in our lives.

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