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Obituaries » Sylvia R. Meagher

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December 23, 1921 - June 12, 2020

Sylvia chose to be cremated and there will be no visitation or services. Arrangements are being handled by Joldersma & Klein. Should anyone wish to make a donation in her memory, please consider Hospice of Southwest Michigan or Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

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Sylvia died on June 12, 2020 at Rose Arbor Hospice. She was born, an only child, to Gilbert and Inga (Frydenlund) Rorvig on a farm near Madelia, Minnesota on December 23, 1921. She was delivered at home by a part-time midwife from a neighboring farm because the doctor was unable to make it to her house through the winter storm. Sylvia grew up loving animals and fascinated by airplanes. Her plans to attend college were waylaid when the aunt who had offered to lend her money for tuition was so dismayed to learn that Sylvia sought a career other than the acceptable choices of nurse or teacher that she rescinded the offer. Aeronautical engineering was clearly out of the question.

So, instead, Sylvia took a civil service test, accepted a position with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (now the FAA) as an aircraft communicator, and reported for training in Chicago, taking her widowed mother along. Training completed, she was offered a choice of assignments in four different Midwest towns. She chose Battle Creek because it was only one of the four she had ever heard of. This was thanks to Kellogg’s cereal, whose advertising of the time always identified the company not just as Kellogg’s, but rather as “Kellogg’s of Battle Creek.” When the military later turned over the control tower at Kellogg Field to the CAA, she became an air traffic controller at the combined station/tower while continuing to save money for college. While working at Kellogg Field during World War II, she met a fellow Minnesota native who was in an army unit stationed there; Sylvia and Jack R. Meagher were married in June, 1943, before Jack’s deployment overseas.

The family lived in Battle Creek for several years before relocating to Kalamazoo in 1959. In addition to having a more-than-full-time job as an air traffic controller, with a daily commute to Battle Creek, and raising four children, Sylvia served as a Blue Bird leader and Cub Scout den mother. She also got her opportunity to go to college, part-time over several years, graduating from Western Michigan University in 1973. After her children were grown and she had retired, Sylvia cultivated her long-held interest in genealogy, traveling to Salt Lake City every other year or so to use the famous LDS Library genealogical collection. She then became an early user of and other computerized sources, leading to creation of an impressive ancestry database of both her and Jack’s families.

Sylvia also provided a home away from home for her two local grandchildren, seeing them off on the school bus every morning and meeting them every afternoon. Her creativity, sense of adventure, and devotion to her grandchildren – augmented by the frequent stimulating presence of the kids’ Uncle Dick — provided a wonderful atmosphere to grow up in. When their mother arrived to pick them up after work, she was often greeted with, “Not yet. Go home and pick us up later.” Sylvia remained active, informed, and interested in the world around her well into her nineties. Her love of animals continued and extended even to the squirrels who ate her bird food and the deer who ate her flowers. She was able to continue to live at home despite injuries, illnesses, joint replacements, and increasing infirmity, thanks to her son Richard assuming a role that ultimately became one of full-time caregiver.

Sylvia was preceded in death, in 1968, by her oldest son, Robert, who was killed in Vietnam. Also preceding her in death, in 1989, was her husband, Jack, who had been a professor of mathematics and the founding director of the Academic Computer Center at WMU. Sylvia is survived by her three children: Jean (Mike) Brodie of Portage, Richard Meagher of Kalamazoo, and Barbara (Steve) Bennett of Rapid River. Also surviving are her four grandchildren: Steve Brodie of Kalamazoo, Shannon (Aaron) Decker of Coldwater, Nathan (Carolyn) Bennett of Ann Arbor, and Zachary (Elizabeth) Bennett of Detroit, and her four great-grandchildren: Lily, Logan, and Landon Decker in Coldwater and Colin Bennett in Ann Arbor.