By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
Margaret Williams was a woman of many talents. From business owner and school teacher, to a designer of elaborate quilts, she was successful at whatever she set out to do.
The longtime Kern River Valley resident died at her home at Paradise Cove on February 26 at the age of 89.
While many residents may remember Margaret as former owner of Paradise Cove Restaurant where she worked as waitress, bartender, bookkeeper and hostess for the family business, her talents went beyond those titles.
Margaret was an avid seamstress. She learned the art of quilting, knitting and crocheting at a young age and perfected her skill throughout her life, using various materials and textiles.
Margaret’s quilts feature intricate and precision stitching and have become treasured heirlooms for her family. One quilt that daughter Pam Smith is particularly proud of is one that three generations have worked on. It demonstrates the progressive stitching of Margaret, her mother and her grandmother.
“She couldn’t just sit. Even while waiting at a doctor’s office she would knit,” Smith said. “During her final years, she made wash rags for a lot of people because she had to be doing something with her hands.”
Daughter Patsy Utley told of a unique way Margaret used her knitting skills.
“She was a hunter, and a better hunter than dad,” Utley said. “My mother would go off and find a stump in an area where she thought the animal would be and she would knit. She said the clicking of the needles would attract the animals. It worked and she often skunked dad.”
Margaret Jane Parker was born April 24, 1929, in Caviness, Texas. In 1941, her family moved to Los Angeles. She attended Franklin High School and Pepperdine College where she earned her BS degree in Home Economics.
It was while attending Pepperdine that Margaret met her future husband, Robert “Bo” Williams.
“Mother said it was not love at first sight,” Utley said. Still, Bo must have made an impression while they were dating, which often included dancing. “Mother loved to dance and my parents could dance.”
Bo and Margaret married in 1950. Five years later they bought property at Paradise Cove and started to prepare for their new life in the Kern River Valley. They built the coffee shop in 1957 and the family made the move to the valley in 1965.
Shortly after her move to the Kern Valley, Margaret embarked on a 30-year teaching career at South Fork School, Kernville and Wallace Elementary Schools. She was both a full time and substitute teacher and Smith said her mother loved teaching and molding young minds.
Margaret retired once; however, when Smith began teaching, she came out of retirement to start up Kern Valley’s GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program. Smith said her mother enjoyed the GATE program because the small group of students allowed for a special bond.
Margaret also had a passion for the Bible, and she would spend her mornings reading and studying the Bible. She participated in a number of Bible study groups and Smith said for more than six years, she opened her home for Bible study to a small group of Kern Valley women from various churches.
Both daughters said that Margaret liked to learn new things. And in 2003, when Margaret suffered a stroke that resulted in Aphasia, her desire to learn became personal, as she had to re-learn how to communicate.
“After the stroke she had to start over with the alphabet and numbers,” Smith said. “She started by going back to the ‘Dick and Jane’ books. It was difficult for her to say what she wanted to say, but she was brilliant and she developed her own way to communicate. She would practice her math by using first and second grade math books.”
The stroke gave Margaret two unexpected gifts. “No. 1, it gave her a sense of humor and No. 2, she learned to curse,” Utley said.
“Mother said that the stroke was God’s way of telling her to be quiet and listen,” Utley said. “Her acceptance and her battle after the stroke were not going to define her. Her Aphasia was not going to define her. She was going to be who she was, and she was courageous.”
One thing that did not change after the stroke was her love for the Kern River Valley.
“She loved the Kern Valley and said that she never tired of the view out the window of her home at Paradise Cove,” Smith said.
Margaret was active in the community and was a member of Eastern Star, Golden Slipper, Rainbow for Girls, the Kern Valley Exchange Club and Bronc Boosters. She volunteered her time at the Hospital Auxiliary, Skilled Nursing Center, and CASA.
Margaret was preceded in death by Bo, who passed away in 2001. In addition to her two daughters, she is survived by her son, Wesley; a sister Mary Lou Hensley; eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Grandson John Blythe grew up at Paradise Cove and credits his grandmother for sparking some of his interests in movies at an early age.
“There were many times when she and grandpa would have the Western Channel or Turner Classic Movies on television. I began to know who everyone was, John Wayne, Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn,” Blythe said.
A memorial service for Margaret Williams will be held at the First Baptist Church in Lake Isabella on Saturday, March 16 at 11 a.m.