Margaret “Maggie” Ely, died in her home in Moscow, Idaho on Saturday, July 28, 2012. She succumbed to a prolonged illness caused by cancer that had gone into remission on two other occasions earlier in her life.
Maggie was born on March 21, 1945 and raised in Mundelein, Illinois. She also resided in Poughkeepsie, New York and Berkeley, California.
She received degrees in math and computer science from the University of Illinois and in botany and community ecology from San Francisco State University. After receiving her degrees, Maggie worked for IBM as a systems programmer, and the Institute of Library Research at University of California, Berkeley as a supervising programmer.
Maggie then worked for several years as a Park Ranger in Anthony Chabot Regional Park in the East Bay. She spent the last years of her career as a gardener in the Botanical Garden in Tilden Regional Park.
She was an outdoor woman; a hiker, a climber, a firefighter, and a park ranger. While working on her advanced degree in plant ecology and taxonomy, the aesthetics of what she was seeing took over the science. She was enthralled by the beauty of the flowers. When she was faced with a very altered life and a bone marrow transplant, she followed a leading to create a body of work that presented this scientific and aesthetic paradigm shift as she experienced it. She achieved prominence in the art world due to her incredibly beautiful and completely unique microscopic photographs of California native plants. She had showings of her work at the Oakland Museum of California as well as the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, and was the subject of a number of nationwide magazine articles.
Maggie began to attend Strawberry Creek Meeting in the 1970s when we were twenty-five people worshiping in a senior center. She knew everybody, had an exceptionally wide group of friends, and loved to cook for them. One Friend has warm memories of Thanksgiving dinners at her house with 10 to 15 people, or more. Her back yard in Berkeley adjoined her neighbors after they had all agreed to take down their fences. Five households were involved, sharing an organic vegetable garden, a hot tub, recreational equipment for the kids, and lots of beautiful plants. Maggie became a member of Strawberry Creek Meeting on November 7, 1982. Friends note that her presence among us was a gift of spirit. Friends remember her sense of humor, her focus on her family and her values. Maggie’s photographs continue to move us and draw us into the Light. She had a strong presence in our Meeting and Friends gratefully received her energy, clarity and tenderness.
Maggie was a committed union activist and a lifelong political activist for a variety of local issues. She was primarily responsible for the creation of a small city park near her home in the neighborhood adjoining Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. After her retirement from the Park District, Maggie moved to Idaho and bought a beautiful house in the wilderness near Moscow. It was not uncommon for bears and moose to show up in her yard. She owned and rode a horse, and had her own radio show on a university N.P.R. station.
During her final days, she was surrounded by her three children, Geoff, Ben, and Catharine, as well as her granddaughter Seraphine, In addition, a number of devoted caretakers from the friends she had made in Idaho were also with her.
Her last days were marked by the same loving spirit and embracing of life that characterized all of her life.
Look into the flower.
Bend, low, to the flower.
The mystery of this flower,
that unfolds and shimmers.
She offers her beauty wildly, shamelessly,
for all - all without care