Lessons Learned from Mother Stanley

By Patti Samar

Last week, our community lost an icon, and Blue Water Woman magazine lost a cherished award recipient.

Marguerite Stanley of Port Huron died August 15 at the age of 98.

This past May, Marguerite received, along with her granddaughter, Haran Stanley, the Blue Water Woman Historian of the Year Award.

And Marguerite was, indeed, an historian – she wrote a book about the history of the Black community in Port Huron – but she was so, so, so much more.

Marguerite Stanley

I never had the opportunity to meet Marguerite because, when it came time to interview her for her award story, she was not well enough to meet with me. Her daughter, Denise Crochrell, shared much of her life story with me, and Haran filled in a lot of blanks, as well. Haran accepted the award for her grandmother (along with her own award) at the award ceremony this past May.

It was my honor to present the award to Marguerite, even from afar, because of the great contributions she made to our community. Marguerite was involved in many, many community endeavors. The table her family set up displaying her awards and honors was at least 24 feet long.

She loved her family and she loved her community fiercely. And she gave back over and over and over again.

I’m extra sad that I didn’t have the opportunity to meet her when she was younger because though our lives could not be more different in so many ways, we both shared a love of the written word.

Marguerite majored in journalism in college, and she spent her whole life writing. She not only wrote “From Whence We Came,” her book about Black history, but she subsequently published annual calendars with additional historic information about the Black community.

And she wrote poetry…beautiful, lyrical poetry…and some poetry not so lyrical, but deeply meaningful.

Haran laughs and says her grandmother would have loved attending the Blue Water Woman awards ceremony and would have gotten all dolled up, wearing a fur coat and all the glam that goes with it because, along with being a deep thinker and thought-provoking personality, she was a woman of style.

I saw all of that reflected in the photos shown at her funeral celebrations this past week. But more than the clothes she was wearing in the photos – and oh my goodness was she ever stylish – I noticed most of all the great big giant smile on her face in every photo. It seemed that every occasion was full of fun when “Mother Stanley,” as she was affectionately known, was in the house.

I also think, in spite of the fact that I never met her, I have learned an important late-in-life lesson, or at least a reminder of this lesson: Always be loud and proud of exactly who you are. I know I sometimes struggle with whether or not I should let people see and know the “real” me. I can’t believe, some days, that I still struggle with this at 58 years of age.

Marguerite faced two major hurdles during her almost-century on this planet: One, she was Black. She died last week never knowing equality and equity the way that I know it because I was born white. She was already 40 years old in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Secondly, she was female. Until the early 1970s, women, as a gender, didn’t acquire the independence –financially and otherwise – that we have today.

I came of age as a young woman in the mid-1980s, and back then, it was not uncommon for people to advise young “career women” to “try and blend in” at the workplace, which, basically, meant try and be one of the boys.

So, a lot of us young women of that time tried incorporating stoic male stereotypes into our approach to our work lives, right down to the ties we wore with our business suits.

Marguerite Stanley was Black and she was a woman and if her poetry reflects the way she approached life, she wrote loudly and proudly about her Blackness and who she was as a person. She did not try and blend into what the world might have expected of her. She was her own person and her own woman every day of her life. It’s obvious to me that she didn’t know any other way to live. And our community is so much better because she did.

“I Am Me” by Marguerite Stanley, as published in “Huron Winds: A Journal of Creative Writing” published by the Blue Water Writers’ Club (no publication date given)

That is a life lesson we can all “take away” from Marguerite’s life. Live your own truth, loudly and proudly. Don’t try and fit into anyone else’s mold. Be who you are and stand tall. Do not let “The Man” (or anyone) try and hold you back or hold you down. Celebrate yourself and celebrate your community, be that your gender/identity, your race, your religion or your culture.

Be true to you.

Marguerite Stanley surely was, and our community is richer having had her presence and voice in it.

Marguerite’s family asks that memorials be made to the Stanley Legacy Wall – Port Huron Museums.

To read Marguerite’s full obituary, visit the Smith Family Funeral Home website.

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