"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2.
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Margie Blevins Kiser penned the final lines of her manuscript and went home on Aug. 17, 2013, to rejoice in reunion with her husband of 63 years, James Kiser, who went on ahead in December 2012. She spent her final days wrapped in the love of her family as she prepared them for her final journey. She was born in the house her father built in Banner, Wise County, Va., on Jan. 9, 1929, on the eve of the great depression. Her father was a coal miner and her mother was a homemaker. Together they forged her character and set an example for successful living. Margie grew up with very spare finances but great spiritual wealth, as she learned from her parents that a sense of self-worth and recognition of her place in God's creation was of far greater value than material riches. She developed a love of poetry and literature at an early age, as well as a keen understanding of God's charge to mankind to be a good steward to all animals, and an unsurpassed ability to see and rejoice in the beauty of the world.
She was the first of her family to attend college, enrolling at Berea College in Kentucky after graduation from Coeburn High School in Coeburn, Va. At Berea, she majored in English Literature, and while she excelled in the academic life, she was drawn away from this pursuit at the urging of the love of her life, Jim Kiser, who had been accepted into flight school in Enid, Okla., as a member of the Army Air Corps. There they were married on July 2, 1949, and although her formal education was ended, she continued in her devotion to literature and poetry for the rest of her days.
The winds of war in Korea swept them to duty stations in the Far East, where their first daughter, Rebecca, was born on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Very shortly thereafter, Jim's plane went down over North Korea. He was listed as missing in action and later was confirmed to be a prisoner of war. During the separation that lasted 26 months, Margie returned with her young daughter to her parents' home in Virginia, where she resumed a previously held position as a newspaper reporter for The Coalfield Progress, taking charge of the unknown destiny that lay ahead. She strove to write cogent and objective accounts of local news stories that were of importance to her community, with a poet's passion for the truth.
Upon Jim's return from POW camp in the Big Switch in 1953, the family was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where Jim resumed his flying career, and two sons were born- James Jr. and Daniel. Their next assignment was Lindsey Air Force Base in Wiesbaden, Germany, where their daughter, Jennifer, was born. Numerous duty stations followed, leading the family through two wars and across three continents. Margie embraced the stresses of military life with her special brand of optimism, remarking that the experience had allowed her to see places she had only dreamed about as a child. Along the way, she transformed a series of military and civilian quarters into warm and welcoming homes for her family. Jim was often absent on flying assignments for months, or even years, at a time, and Margie managed to single-handedly maintain the household while raising four children who would have driven a lesser woman mad. She taught her children love and respect for each other, for the community, and for animals. She forged many deep friendships in the churches and communities of which she was a part, and cherished and maintained these for the rest of her life.
When Jim retired from the Air Force in 1975, the family moved back to Fort Walton Beach, where Margie was finally able to sink deep roots into a community she grew to love. She was an active member of her church, teaching Sunday School and Bible School for many years. She joined with local writers to form a writer's circle and honed her poetry skills while mentoring others, always rejoicing in their successes. She attended many writers' seminars where her work was well received. Her poems were featured in various literary collections, but unfortunately she published only a few of her works, offering them instead as private gifts to family and friends. She authored newsletters and sales team profiles for Jim in his real estate business, infusing dry subject matter with humor and wit.
Besides her family and poetry, her great passion in life was the welfare of injured, abandoned, or mistreated animals. She was a fierce advocate for homeless pets, working tirelessly to bring about local pet licensing laws fashioned after successful policies in more progressive cities which placed the burden and expense of pet overpopulation on pet owners rather than on the taxpayer at large. She also worked successfully to insure that local authorities would enforce the statewide ban against the use of steel jaw leg-hold traps in Okaloosa County. Together with friends in 1981, she established the Animal Protection League of Okaloosa County, Inc. (APL), raising funds with craft and rummage sales to provide interest- free loans for pet owners who could not afford the cost of spay/neuter surgeries in one payment. She gave special attention to pets at PAWS (Panhandle Animal Welfare Society) that for one reason or another might not be adopted. She worked untold hours with these animals on behavior or health issues to restore them to adoptable condition. To that end, she also sponsored a 'Pet of the Week' ad in the area newspaper, writing an eye-catching and inspiring description of each pet that led to many hundreds of adoptions over the years. Some of these pets became her own, and our household was blessed with the love that only an animal that has faced hardship and has been redeemed can offer.
Her life and family were Christ-centered. She blessed her family with her many good works. She was a superb cook, chauffeur, coach, creator of costumes, nurse, Den Mother, and a stalwart defender of family, at school or in the neighborhood. Her most enduring gift, which she showered on her family without end, was unconditional love. One thing she didn't often do was to grant herself repose, and the family rejoices in the knowledge that the gift of the peace that passeth all understanding now is hers. Her children were privileged to honor the standard of family love that she set, by gathering in her presence in her final days as we reflected upon and savored the blessings of a life well lived. During this time she taught us her final lessons.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Ira and Bertha Blevins; her sister, Norma Hart; and her beloved husband, Jim. Left to mourn her passing as we rejoice in her legacy are her children, Rebecca L. Kiser, James R. Kiser Jr. (Laura), Daniel S. Kiser (Alison), and Jennifer K. Ogilvie; five grandchildren, Bethany, Joseph, Chelsea, Sarah and Abigail; brothers and sisters-in-law, Josh and Joyce Kiser and Iris and Ed DeFord; cherished nieces, nephews, and cousins; and a special friend, Shawn Grace. The family would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to a team of new family members consisting of the dedicated and loving caregivers who gave her support in reaching the end of her long and storied journey with dignity and grace. Most especially, we wish to thank the staff of Emerald Coast Hospice for their guidance and service in the final chapter of her life.
Visitation will begin on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, at 1 p.m., at McLaughlin Mortuary, 17 Chestnut Ave. SE, Fort Walton Beach. A celebration of Margie's life will be held at 2 p.m., led by Chaplain Frank Dole. Graveside services will follow at Beal Memorial Cemetery.
Friends who may wish to make memorial contributions in her name, in lieu of flowers, are invited to support one or more of the following organizations as she requested: Animal Protection League of Okaloosa County, Inc., PO Box 51, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549; The Margie Kiser Fund at PAWS, 752 Lovejoy Rd. Fort Walton Beach FL 32548, or The Lottie Moon Foreign Missions Offering, c/o The First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach, 21 First St., Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548.
Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted online at www.McLaughlinMortuary.com.
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Aug. 23 to Aug. 25, 2013