Tallahassee Seniors Talk About the Time of Their Lives

Threads of History

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History is about people, the lives they lead, the choices they make and the legacies they leave behind. Historic characters make their mark on our world, but what about the average person? What about people whose lives are spent on the fringes of history? Or unassuming folks who wind up playing roles in world-altering events?
Their stories are worthy of being captured before memory fades and the threads are lost forever.  

Shannon Griffin

Margaret T. Hamilton

Margaret, 90

Margaret Hamilton’s old cat lounges in the front window and basks luxuriously in a sunbeam. Tony is 13 years old, which makes him almost 70 in human years, and she keeps an eye on him as he starts to slow down.

“He has a hard time getting around, but he likes to sit in the sun and watch the world go by,” Margaret laughed. “We are the same in those ways.”

Margaret is 90, and like Tony, has earned the right to repose. But unlike Tony, she has seen most of what the world has to offer. Over the course of her lifetime she made 116 trips to various exotic locales, including Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico and has visited old-world countries including Germany, Austria and France as well. 

Her life began on a farm in Michigan, but her first husband’s government job would take her to Illinois, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama and then back to Florida. New cities have always enlivened her, but with two small children, Margaret craved a town she could call her permanent home.

“One time we were driving through Tallahassee and I said to my husband, ‘This is a nice town, can you transfer here?’ He did. I have been here ever since and my, has this town ever changed,” she said. “But people are always friendly here, and it’s a good clean town. I love the canopy roads. They better not ever get rid of those.” 

Margaret worked as a proofreader in the publications department of the Florida Bar Association.

“I helped with putting legal books together and copy editing,” she shared. “When I was in high school, I was a teacher’s assistant and my job was to correct the papers of students. I loved doing that and ended up doing it for a career.” 

She’s not kidding about how much she adored her job. She retired at age 84. 

In the midst of pursuing a career, she decided it was time to achieve the college education she had missed out on when she was younger. So, when her daughter started college at Florida State University, Margaret joined her. She received her bachelor’s degree in history and English, and pursued a master’s degree in historic preservation. But those studies were cut short when her husband died. Instead of continuing on with her academic work, she decided to do some traveling. Something marvelously unexpected happened to her after a while, however.

“I had been a widow for 18 years and never thought I would get married again,” she said. “Killearn United Methodist was having a bus trip to Plains, Georgia, to go to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school. Roger was also on the trip. He had just moved to Tallahassee from Miami after the passing of his wife. We hit it off on that trip.” 

It’s not clear whether Margaret believes in soul mates, but if a movie were to be made about her life, Roger would be characterized as hers. They knew each other for 10 years and were married for eight. During that time they travelled together, danced together, created art together and shared piano benches.

Margaret always had the keen eye, creative mind and the steady hand of an artist. She introduced Roger to art classes at the Tallahassee Senior Center. There isn’t a wall in her home that doesn’t hold her artwork and that of her late husband. The living room alone features at least 10 exquisite landscape paintings. Margaret is humble about her work but will show you an entire wall in her art room dedicated to the multicolored ribbons and awards her art has earned.

The award she is most proud of is the Silver Star, presented to her by the senior center. It acknowledges her countless volunteer efforts at City Hall, Goodwood Gardens, the Little Theatre and the Senior Center’s art council. 

Margaret will not deny that she has lived a fulfilling life. But one goal remains.

“There is one thing that Roger always encouraged me to do,” she said. “Finish my master’s degree. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I know a few professors at FSU and could ask them what I need to do. If I can accomplish that, I think I have done everything.”

As she thoughtfully peers over her coffee cup, Margaret looks back on all she has accomplished.

“Overall, I’ve lived a very good, happy life,” she said with a smile. “It hasn’t always been wine and roses. There have been a few thorns. But you can’t sweat the small stuff. People get agitated about things that won’t even amount to a hill of beans. Have some fun or do something constructive. Don’t worry so much."
— Rebecca Padgett

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