Marjorie IrwinMay 12, 1926 ~ January 25, 2017 (age 90)
Remembering Marjorie Irwin
May 12, 1926 – January 25, 2017
Marjorie Irwin was born in May of 1926 in Arcata, California, where her family was involved in the logging business. Eventually her parents, Will and Ruth Jones, moved the family to Lake County, and they lived in the countryside during the Depression. She remembered those years with tales of rattlesnakes under the front porch and her dad feeding the family by hunting for deer. Our earliest picture of Margie is an undated class photo that looks like maybe 7th or 8th grade, which would put it around 1938-1939. Dressed in a simple cotton dress, she looked serious, thin, and tall for her age.
By the time she was 17, in 1943, Margie’s school portrait is the picture of a happy and confident young woman with her life ahead of her. Things were looking up; the Jones family was living on Armstrong Street in Lakeport, and Will L. Jones owned the local lumber yard. Margie’s younger sister Janet and her big brother Bob Jones, known as sort of a hell-raiser and handsome rogue, rounded out the family.
It wasn’t long after this photo was taken that a good-looking truck driver named Bruce started coming around the Mecca Café, where Margie worked, every time his job brought him through town. They were married in June of 1945, a wedding that cost $3. “We were married for 71 years,” Bruce says, “so that $3 held up pretty good.” They lived a short time in Los Angeles before returning to Lakeport, where Bruce worked at the lumber yard for his father-in-law and owned a gas station. It was in Lakeport in 1950 that they welcomed their first child, Sue, in 1950.
Eventually Bruce got an apprenticeship at Mare Island in Vallejo, and Margie was employed there too doing office work. In a few years they had saved enough money to buy an acre of land in Napa, where they moved in 1954 while Bruce built their house. First they lived in a trailer in the driveway, then in the garage, and finally they settled into the house itself, not long after Scott was born in 1956. Bruce still lives in the house more than 60 years later.
As a young wife, Margie loved being out and about with Bruce, who liked making her laugh. (The cover photo here is Margie enjoying dinner with Bruce at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.) Once the kids were born, she took care of the family, cooked, cleaned, sewed, and generally put up with all of them. Every so often they’d all take off camping or up into the hills for a day of hiking around or swimming. They loved going to Conn Dam in Napa Valley. Sue remembers that one time Margie dove in to save a boy who was in trouble near the outlet of the dam. She went into the water with her glasses on, never to see them again.
The family camping trips were fantastic. The Irwins went to the redwoods many summers, and also took longer road trips – one in particular was up into the Northwest, the year of the Seattle World’s Fair. That trip took them through the Canadian Rockies and down into Montana before heading home.
When Scott was a teenager, Bruce and Margie owned a sailboat and they spent many weekends up at Lake Berryessa camping and sailing; summers they would head to Oregon to sail on lakes and enjoy the forested campsites.
Margie was a working mom, employed in the payroll office at Napa County Schools. By the time Sue was out of college and Scott had married Lucy Simon, however, it was time to quit work and start making the most of more free time, first as a grandma to Lehla, and then as a road warrior and world traveller.
Margie and Bruce took off in their mobile home on many a trip through California and the U.S. Their longest road trip was across the country and up into Newfoundland. Then they began traveling overseas every few years: Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Costa Rica, Venezuela and the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers. They took regular trips to Baja hauling their trailer and little Zodiac boat for extended fishing trips in the gulf. In later years they would spend several months each winter in the southern California desert in their mobile home, joined by Margie’s sister Jan and brother–in-law Austin who also wintered there. It was a great place to socialize, golf, and of course, go birding — one of Margie’s great passions.
Much of Margie’s life involved taking care of others: her kids at every turn, each of her parents as they needed assistance, her granddaughters Lehla and Ariel when she got the chance, and nursing Bruce through several surgeries. She managed to balance it out with all of her traveling, birding, and studying nature.
Many of us can remember Margie at the dining room table, poring endlessly over her books, learning about whatever facet of natural history she was currently hooked on. She loved creating her gardens, and did in-depth studies on minerals, shells, plants, and butterflies. Her love of birds and birding became her most enduring relationship with the natural world. She thrived on birdwatching trips with friends in the Napa-Solano Audubon Society, and eventually was involved in the Christmas bird counts every winter.
We will remember her sharp wit, her undying inquisitiveness, and how much she loved spending time in nature and with friends and family. She was a really good sport, always game for a get-together and heading out on the next trip. It was a good life, one we are all grateful to have shared for so many years.
Memorial contributions in Marjorie Irwin’s name would be gratefully accepted by Napa-Solano Audubon Society, P.O. Box 10006, Napa, CA 94581.