August 23, 1920 March 22, 2013
Margaret Maureen was the fourth and final child of Ernest and Lottie (Murdock) Elsner, born on the family farm on the Platte River near Arlington, Neb. August 23, 1920. At an early age the family made an 18-day drive from Nebraska to Southern California for a new life.
Margaret was a happy child, spoiled by her older brothers and sister, but her battle with health problems began when she was about 10 years old, when she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis and possible loss of her right leg. With her devoted father's selfless help, applying scalding compresses and homemade traction to her leg, the first miracle she experienced in her life was the saving of her leg, although she was in a wheelchair for 10 years. During this time, she developed her lifelong love of reading. In order to find a career that wouldn't require her to walk, she capitalized on her beautiful singing voice and musical background, took professional voice lessons, and worked toward a career as an opera singer. While volunteering as a hostess at the AWVS in Glendale, she met the young first flutist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra who was then in the military. Their mutual love of music sparked an instant interest, and Margaret married Roger Stevens May 28, 1945. Roger finished his military obligation and in the next five years the couple welcomed their children, little Roger, David, and Ann. The family moved to Pasadena where they lived for the next 12 years, during which time Margaret rekindled an earlier interest in metaphysics.
She started her ministerial training in the early 1960s and became Rev. Margaret Stevens in 1966. Two years later, the Santa Anita Church congregation elected Margaret the permanent minister. In 1971 she was bestowed an honorary doctorate through the Reformed Episcopal Church of Canada; she was now Dr. Margaret Stevens. During her ministry she enjoyed extensive world travels, seeing places she'd always wanted to see (and some she'd never heard of), speaking to and becoming friends with people everywhere she went, many of whom still communicate with members of the family.
Margaret spent 22 years as minister of the beautiful church across the street from the famous Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia before she retired as a result of some major health problems.
With the encouragement of a dear friend, she visited and quickly moved to Ashland, Ore. and was there to stay. She made the 11-hour solo drive to Arcadia every month to take care of husband Roger (who didn't want to move to Ashland), but after three years of making that commute, the couple decided it was best to part ways. So after 52 years, the marriage was over, but the love never ended.
It wasn't long before she started her own little church, the Center for Positive Living, which she continued for eight years with the help of many new friends in the Ashland community. She was a recognized contributor to the Ashland Lithiagraph (Spiritual Solutions section), was a frequent guest on the cable program There is a Way, and hosted The Abundant Life. Over her 35-year ministry, she wrote and published several books, including Prosperity is God's Idea, Jubilation on the Journey, You Cannot Die, numerous children's books, and co-wrote Families of the Jailed with her son Roger. In 2003 she finished her autobiography Reflections of a Blessed Reverend Mother (a nickname lovingly given to her by her sons), which was printed locally in a limited quantity.
When daughter Ann moved from Hawaii to Oregon in 1998, Margaret moved to a spacious modular home on the front of Ann's acreage near Emigrant Lake. Even after she closed her church and ended her other community activities, she continued to issue a monthly newsletter to over 400 of her worldwide friends and associates, keeping them abreast of her activities, sharing inspirational readings, offering prayers and encouragement. To this day, her family frequently gets inquiries as to Where's the newsletter? What's happening with Margaret?
In 2007, a series of hip replacement surgeries left her unable to care for herself, even with Ann's assistance. She moved to Mountain View Retirement where she received dedicated care from the staff and enjoyed a sunny apartment, while continuing to provide loving encouragement to staff and other residents, often loaning out favorite books to those who asked. When further health issues required more one-on-one care in early 2011, she moved to Ashland Creekside Senior Residence where she had an unobstructed view of the nearby horse pastures and foothills she loved, and was just five minutes from Ann. Even in her declining two years, she never forgot to smile at everyone, offer encouragement, always express her appreciation, and keep her toes dancing while in her recliner.
In answer to the question where's the newsletter or what's happening with Margaret? we can now say she's pain and worry free, and conversing with the angels, where she's always belonged! She is and will be missed by many!
She is survived by her son, David Stevens; daughter, Ann Smith; grandchildren, Morgan, Jason, Jed, and Erin; and great-grandchildren, Gracie, twins Mark and Lisa, and Alexander.
Memorial services will be held Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the First United Methodist Church, 175 N Main St., Ashland, Ore. at 2:00 p.m., and at the Santa Anita Church in Arcadia, Calif. at a date still to be determined.
Contributions may be made in Margaret's name to your favorite charity.