BALGLEY, MARGARET JOSEPHINE O'HARA Sept. 27, 1916 to June 29, 2006 Margaret Josephine O'Hara Balgley died on Thursday, June 29, 2006 in San Diego, California. An American success story, her life of nearly ninety years was testimony to the power of a humane and prejudice-free outlook. Growing up in the meadows of the picturesque landscape of rural New York State in Sparrowbush, a small town near the New York and Pennsylvania borders, Margaret was bright in school, athletic, good at all variety of sport and games; she particularly loved swimming in the nearby Delaware River. Losing her father at the age of two, she was raised along with five siblings by her young widowed mother, Mae Eidel O'Hara. Although the setting of her youth was provincial, Margaret's views on social justice were broad-minded and progressive. She was outgoing and independent, and moved to New York City in her early twenties where she worked for the Foremost Company. The United States had not yet entered World War II on March 22, 1940 when Margaret O'Hara married Ely Balgley. The newlyweds set sail on their honeymoon to Bermuda on the S.S. Acadia, marked so that enemy ships would not fire on it. Theirs was an interfaith marriage, and the two were cautioned that people from such differing backgrounds could never make a marriage last. Born in a shtetl on the Russian-Polish border, her husband, Ely, came to the U.S. as a child. A "city boy", Ely came of age in Brooklyn of the 1920's. Recognized early on as a piano prodigy, he studied at New York's Juilliard School, graduating at the age of fifteen. Ely's other talent was the study of science, and hence, performing throughout New York, he financed his study of chemistry at Brooklyn College, later completing his advanced degree in that field at New York University. The two met at the elegant Eddy Farm resort in the Delaware River area of New York State where they worked in the summers of their youths. The courtships that ensued was set in the famed restaurants and ballrooms of the city in a legendary period of American history-of Manhattan history-where the music captured the energy and hope quintessential to the American spirit. Margaret Balgley embodied that optimism and spirit as she moved with her husband throughout the United States making homes in a variety of cities and towns, the couple taking on the challenges of new work in new places, and over time raising four children, all of whom would excel as professionals in the fields of law, business and education. Active always in The League of Women Voters and a keen competitor at bridge, Margaret's high intelligence, quick wit and sense of social responsibility were a legacy she passed on to her family. Even though the locale of Margaret Balgley's family home changed-whether New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois or California, a constant was always Margaret's famed garden and Ely's music. In more than one neighborhood over the years, neighbors would admire her flowers and vegetables, and ask that the family keep the doors and windows open on the Sundays when Ely played his music so that Chopin and Mozart would carry into the spring air for all to hear. Retiring in 1977 to the other American coast in San Diego, California, Margaret continued to nurture her garden, and Ely continued to play his music. The two attended all the graduations of their grandchildren, traveling throughout the country in the same spirit of hope and optimism of their youth to honor the young. About the cautions regarding their interfaith marriage: Margaret and Ely celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary just three months before Margaret passed away at 89 years of age. Margaret Balgley is survived by her husband, Ely of San Diego; son Michael Balgley of Trappe, Maryland; daughters Jane Davis of Seal Beach, California; Kathleen Balgley of San Diego, and Elise Balgley of Milpitas, California; brother Richard F. O'Hara of Wilmington, Delaware; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A private family celebration of Margaret Balgley's life was held in San Diego. Donations may be made to The Interfaith Alliance at 550 W. Washington Ave., Ste. B, Escondido, California 92925.Please sign the guest book at obituaries.uniontrib.com
Published in San Diego Union-Tribune on Sep. 27, 2006.