“I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also.“ Margie Vern Fowler Williamson, 84, left for the place Jesus had prepared January 17, 2021. She was a homemaker, legal secretary, newspaper columnist, professional watercolor artist, photographer, and art teacher.
Margie was born June 28, 1936, in Crosby County in the Panhandle of Texas, to Loyd Alonzo Fowler and Ethice Leslie Reynolds Fowler. She grew up on a farm near the rim of the Caprock, north of Crosbyton, and was proud to be educated for many years in the two-room schoolhouse in the Big 4 Community. She graduated from Crosbyton High School, where she played basketball. (Within the last month of her life, she said “I was a guard, so I didn’t get to shoot very much.” But it’s clear she knew how: She used to beat her own son at Horse.) She often stayed in town with Leonard and Freda Parker to be able to make basketball practice, and she waited tables at the 82 Cafe. She fell in love with Tommy Williamson, both the music and the man, himself born June 24, 1934. So when they wed in Crosbyton, the Summer after Margie graduated, they decided to split the difference between their birthdays, and they married on June 26, 1954.
Margie gave birth to their four sons during the sixteen years that she and Tommy lived in Ralls. She worked on the square as a legal secretary for Lloyd A. Wicks, Jr. She was active in Young Homemakers and with the young marrieds at church (the Veretts, Wrights, Searcys, Powells) who all tried to make special church events as much fun as possible for the youth. She met often with the ladies at church to make quilts. Margie hated to cut up chickens, so when chickens went on sale, her mother Ethice would come do the cutting and would freeze the raw pieces of chicken in cardboard milk cartons, before the days of plastic.
Margie must have learned a great deal from her mother’s servant heart. Margie’s lifelong friend, June Pinkston, told us her own account of the days after she met Margie in 1957 and was newly wed: Margie “was a big help to me when I was first married and I didn’t know anything. She helped me so much. I didn’t have any friends and I was all by myself there in Ralls. I got pregnant real quick; and she cooked for me, and helped me find a doctor. She just took care of me. I didn’t even know how to cook.... She took me under her wing.”
In May 1970, Tommy and Margie moved to Pecos, Texas, where she made her home for more than 50 years. She worked as a columnist for the Pecos Enterprise and devoted herself to PTA, Young Homemakers, Pecos Art Association, and Modern Study Club.
In our loss, it helps to consider what Margie thought was important, and especially what she did about it.
The Fowler Family Reunion that began nearly 70 years ago was one of Margie’s highest priorities. Each Summer, relatives gather for a meal in Crosbyton where the walls display family trees that go back 10 generations and where entry tables are laden with cherished family pictures as old as photography itself. Margie has been the driving force for decades. In a time when young people are less likely to attend, Margie remained undaunted in heading up the reunion, and carrying out the logistics for her loved ones to keep gathering year after year.
Some 30 years ago Margie and her brothers and sisters created a different, sibling reunion that she has always attended as well. This second reunion has blessed the siblings’ more immediate families immensely. Curious Fowler descendants soak up the local culture and go sightseeing in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Missouri—wherever the reunion is held—and always reserve one night for the Auction, of the items we have brought. It’s our own take on the old idea that no one ever really eats fruitcake; they just exchange the same ones each Christmas.
Margie’s family of origin was tremendously important to her. But for the family she raised, her pride and joy, the tombstone she commissioned for Tommy and her says it all. Eight years ago she had the front engraved with his name (and a guitar), her name (and an artist‘s palette)—everything except her 2021 graduation date. But she had carved into the reverse side of their tombstone: proud parents of Joseph Mark, James Matthew, John Mace, Joshua Miles—all four devoted Christians and Eagle Scouts. Below are engraved the names of Tommy and Margie’s seven grandchildren: Jacob, Nicholas, Jennifer, Jessica, Miranda, Mark, John Mark.
Margie loved to photograph, both the beauty of landscapes and the beauty of grandchildren. Here’s the math problem we all hope St. Peter doesn’t ask us at the gate: Estimate the number of times Margie released the camera shutter in her lifetime. She captured nature on film, and she represented nature on wet canvas, with watercolor she was able to control formidably.
Her most remarkable hat trick was her ability to use the moving, seeping watercolor to paint the distant shore of a lake with forest green trees, Autumn burgundy trees, and ocher cattails, but then also paint, below the shoreline, a perfect upside-down copy, to be a reflection on the surface of the lake. The talent God invested in her was staggering. Maybe we’ll try to count the blue ribbons.
But her greatest attention was to what the Lord Himself was painting. Often our family would stop beside the road so that Mom could photograph a windmill or an old house, with His fiery West Texas sunset in the background. She marveled at the unexpected and lush color combinations, and joked that if she were to try to paint it that way on canvas, people would think she’s nuts.
From childhood productions in the auditorium at Big 4, to the recent Tuesday nights when she would sing gospel and country favorites at the Saddle Shop in Pecos, Margie’s was a life filled with music. Her parents were musicians; she married Tommy, a singer-songwriter; and she and her husband performed together all their married life—even with their kids when the children were young: In Pecos in the seventies, Margie and her sons would put up posters all over town, promoting the Country Music Jamboree, where residents came Saturday nights from all over West Texas to thrill to the sounds of Jimmy Bryant’s piano, Lessie Woodard’s fiddle, and Wanda Passmore’s voice.
In very recent years, Margie traveled extensively with her beau, Lavon Schooley, to perform with him at Bluegrass Festivals throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Schooley had DVDs made, for all of Margie’s sons, of their Dad Tommy performing lead vocals and playing guitar with a bluegrass band—the kind of band that Tommy and Margie and Schooley had performed in, the three of them together, for years. Schooley’s sweet attention to Margie kept joy in her heart and music in her life to the end. Her sons deeply cherish the memory of singing family standards together with their mother around Matt’s kitchen table in New Mexico her last Christmas. We were “Dreaming of a Little Cabin.” Music was God’s gift to our family.
Margie lived her life as a teacher. She wanted people to learn to do hands-on, practical things “decently and in order.” But she also encouraged young people to pursue higher education if that was their bent. She worked hard to help students win scholarship funds through the local Modern Study Club where she was president many terms. The Western District of TFWC, the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs, offers annually the Alma Van Sickle scholarship. Margie worked tirelessly for many years, helping local candidates prepare their best applications to compete with other students throughout West Texas for that college tuition scholarship. The Western District even selected Margie as their Outstanding Clubwoman of the Year. Late in life Margie was tremendously proud to be awarded her 50-year pin for 50 years of faithful service to the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Margie was also a patriot, with a deep appreciation of history. When Bill and Judy Odom began their campaign to get an historical marker at the site of the old Big 4 schoolhouse—and they came to the Fowler reunion to talk it up—Margie took the bull by the horns. Her cousin Don Parker tells us that Margie raised the bulk of the $1800 that Texas charged for the historical marker placed at Big 4. She championed and contributed to the national causes she believed in. She took seriously her training and her responsibilities when she worked the elections in Reeves County, as she did just two months ago.
From her father who fought in World War I to her grandson John Mark, now a Marine, she held military personnel in the highest esteem. Each Memorial Day, she was eager that flags decorate the graves of her veteran loved ones buried back home in the Crosbyton cemetery. This past Veterans Day, just two months ago (the anniversary of Tommy’s death), when Margie found out that it was possible for the name of her oldest sister Dixie Stainthorpe to be carved into the veterans’ wall of honor in Brazos County, to commemorate Dixie’s tragic sacrifices in World War II, Margie asked every question to learn how to get that done. Here’s the promise: It will be.
Margie’s devotion to God found expression in Vacation Bible School, and as a Sunday School teacher for years.
But her faith played out perhaps most fully in her care for those alone or forgotten. Here’s more math: How many people ever answered the phone to find her singing Happy Birthday to them? Margie believed Jesus: “Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me.” She rode shotgun for her husband Tommy, in the car and in his heart, all the years he drove to Wink, Texas, to preach and teach. She loved to cook for church potlucks, and she created the best homemade vanilla ice cream ever to grace the church ice cream socials in Maxey Park. (Margie’s brother Eph used to refer to youngsters as “tricycle engines.” Margie tended to think of her kids more as ice cream engineers: always to be put in charge of the turning freezer, the ice, and the rock salt.)
Finally, Margie had a deep sense of the end game: Missionaries would send to her beautiful cultural mementos from the peoples and lands where they served—not for the size of her contributions, but to honor her faithfulness, in years and years of her steadfast support. “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
Margie was predeceased by her parents, Loyd and Ethice Fowler, by her husband Tommy Williamson, her son Mark Williamson, her grandson Jacob Matthew Williamson; her siblings Dixie Stainthorpe, Norris Hale Fowler, Gwin Dale Fowler, Leslie (Katie) Fowler, Bonnie Faye Fowler, Eph Allen Fowler; and her brother-in-law Norbert Stahl.
Margie is survived by her siblings Wilma Jean Stahl, Harley (Becky) Fowler, her sister-in-law Lenette Fowler; her daughter-in-law Sarah Williamson, her sons Matt (Jody) Williamson, Mace Williamson, Miles (Kristi) Williamson; her grandchildren Nicholas (Sharina) Williamson, Jennifer (Nathan) Garner, Jessica (Eli) Martinez, Miranda (Connor) Cella, Mark Sanders, and John Mark Williamson; six great-grandchildren and a wealth of cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.
Our family wishes to thank American Home Health, her doctors, and most especially her nurses at Reeves County Hospital, whose tender treatment of our Mother was the very embodiment of Jesus’ love. Above all, we cannot express our gratitude fully enough to Rhonda Wade, Trevor Teague, and Tom Hiebert, whose practical help and patient care for our Mother across so many years have been profound. May the blessing return to you a hundred-fold.
Pallbearers will be Nick Williamson, Sterling Stainthorpe, Stephen Fowler, Eli Martinez, Connor Cella, Mark Sanders, Danny Williamson, Joshua Williamson, and Tom Hiebert.
Margie’s funeral will be Friday, January 29, at 2 pm at Pecos Funeral Home. Interment will be Saturday, January 30, at noon at the Crosbyton Cemetery. Everyone is invited to both.