WEST SPRINGFIELD - Margaret Szumowski, 63, of West Springfield, passed away peacefully August 18, 2013, at home, with her loving family by her side; her husband, Dr. Andrew Szumowski and her two children, Dr. John David Szumowski and Anna Catherine Szumowski.
Margaret was a prolific writer who also frequently participated in and organized valley readings. Her poems and essays appeared in notable literary journals, and she published three books of poetry "Ruby's Café", Devil's Millhopper Press, and "I Want This World" and "The Night of the Lunar Eclipse", both from Tupelo Press. She received numerous accolades for her work. She was also extraordinarily generous with her time and feedback to fellow writers and could always be relied upon for encouragement and honesty in her responses to their work.
A dedicated educator, Margaret ended her teaching career as a tenured full professor at Springfield Technical Community College where she taught writing courses and organized Ovations, a popular series that brought writers to STCC for talks and workshops. Margaret achieved the college's highest honors for her work, including in 2001, the Joseph J. Deliso, Sr., Endowed Chair for excellence in teaching. Although she had taught in many settings in this country and in others, Margaret always said that community college teaching was her favorite; she enjoyed working with students from ages 16 to 80, and of all ethnic backgrounds.
Born in 1949 in Winterset, Iowa, Margaret was the eldest of seven children. Her friends and family recall fondly her tale of twirling a flaming baton at her high school homecoming game. Margaret graduated from the University of Iowa at 19 with a bachelor's honors in English and earned an master's from the University of Wisconsin and a master's of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Margaret had an abiding passion for social justice. In 1973, Margaret and her husband joined the Peace Corps. En route to their assignments in Congo, their plane stopped in Uganda for refueling where Idi Amin ordered the entire planeload of American volunteers taken hostage. The episode ended peacefully, and the Szumowskis served in Congo for a year before being transferred to Ethiopia for another year. They also worked in the Rio Grande Valley before moving to Massachusetts. Intrepid and curious travelers, the Szumowskis continued to explore and learn from the world for years. Many of Margaret's poems reflected her wide ranging and hard earned knowledge of global complexities as well as her incisive explorations of individuals' inner landscapes. She shared her own education and experiences with her students, creating eclectic and diverse reading lists and assignments. And, as she often said, "she learned massively from them as well".
In addition to her husband and children, Margaret is survived by her mother, Mrs. Georgia Carson, a brother and four sisters, and many, many students and friends, all of whose lives were enlightened by her glowing presence.
A memorial poetry reading to celebrate her life and work will take place Sunday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m. in the Amy H. Carberry Gallery, on the first floor of Building 28, on the Springfield Technical Community College campus.
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Oct. 24, 2013