The Real Steel Magnolia

Not many people can say they had the honor of being portrayed by Sally Field in a classic movie. But then, not many people are Margaret Harling.

Harling, who died Aug. 22, 2013, at age 90, was one of "the original Steel Magnolias," according to her obituary in the Shreveport Times.

Her son, Robert Harling, wrote the play "Steel Magnolias" in response to his younger sister Susan's death from Type 1 diabetes. Robert and Susan were very close, and the play was one of the ways he coped with losing her.

The play became a star-studded movie, also written by Robert. As he remembered his sister and honored his mother, he introduced the world to a new way of referring to strong Southern women.

The obituary tells us a lot about Harling’s accomplishments and interests: a World War II Army nurse who went on to earn her Master’s, a long career in psychiatric nursing, active in her church in Natchitoches and numerous charities, longtime member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a talented baker “known far and wide for her dinner rolls” and her coconut cake (once featured in the New York Times).

Was Harling much like her fictional counterpart, M'Lynn Eatenton? The obituary doesn’t say, but we have a pretty good idea that she was. Like M’Lynn, Margaret was giving, devoting time after her daughter's death to raise money for juvenile diabetes and kidney research. And she was dearly loved by her family.

Sounds familiar.