A resident of Elkhorn, Nebraska since 2010, Margaret left us March 19, 2020. She was 98. Margaret firmly believed that everyone could sing and could enjoy singing, and she set about to make this happen throughout her lifetime.
Born Margaret Jane Gray in Corning Feb. 3, 1922, she spent her childhood in various southern Iowa communities before her family settled in Des Moines. Margaret grew up in a musical family. Her pharmacist father had his own jazz band, and her mother was an accomplished pianist.
Margaret received music degrees from Simpson College, where she met her future husband, Forrest Whipp. They married in Omaha in 1943. After moving to the Lenox area, Margaret taught in Clearfield and Creston while their children were young and spent the balance of her teaching career in Lenox.
Over the years, the Lenox vocal music program grew under Margaret’s leadership. A great source of pride for her vocal music students was their impact at music contests. At small group events, Lenox would have the greatest number of performers, and at large group contests, the Lenox choruses invariably outnumbered those from other schools by several factors.
Margaret spread the joy of music beyond the schools. She played organ at church and performed for countless weddings, funerals and celebrations. Later in her career Margaret organized cantatas, in which she brought together former students and other community members to sing challenging music.
Margaret and Forrest loved to travel. In early years, camping vacations were a favorite. After their children left home, they pursued international travel including mainland Europe, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries, Northern Africa and much of Asia, as well as several Soviet bloc countries before the Berlin wall came down.
A few little-known facts about Margaret: During college, she sang with a dance band for WWII troops, but declined a move with the band to Los Angeles. She did “Rosie the Riveter” duty at a California aircraft factory. She passed on the chance to study piano performance in New York to marry her young farmer husband. Margaret’s marriage to Forrest — a marriage of over 66 years — was kept secret during her first year of teaching because married women “didn’t need a job.”
And, Margaret loved color. This showed up in colorful clothing for the family, in colorful houses, and in a whole series of red automobiles, starting with a 1951 Pontiac special-ordered with convertible-only red paint.
Margaret was preceded in death by her father E. Reagan Gray, mother Dorothy Loper Gray, husband Forrest, sister Mildred Hansen and husband Ted of Marysville, California, and daughter-in-law Pamela Whipp.
She is survived by son Dennis Whipp of San Rafael, California; daughter Janet Robinson and husband Stephen; granddaughter Sarah Robinson; grandson Joseph Robinson and wife Nicole; and great-grandsons: Charles, Samuel and William Robinson, all of Omaha; and granddaughter Jennifer Zebrack and husband John; and great grandchildren: Jane and Joshua Zebrack, all of Reno, Nevada.
Condolences may be left on the Ritchie Funeral Home website.