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Margaret Frances Wakefield Tator ’34

A picture of Margaret Wakefield Tator

Courtesy of Special Collections, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College.

Margaret Frances Wakefield Tator ’34, October 6, 2014, in Portland, at the age of 102 years. Margaret moved to Portland from Michigan and attended Franklin High School. Her mother was a teacher and insisted on her children going to college, she told Will Levin ’05 in an interview in 2004. She learned about Reed because of a friend, Marjorie Tator McDonald ’34, who later became her sister-in-law. Margaret was a day-dodger until her senior year and built on an interest in history, formed in high school, with courses taught by Prof. Rex Arragon [history 1923–62, 1970–74], who became her adviser for a thesis on Stephen A. Douglas. Margaret noted, “Reed was a good background, so that you knew that you didn’t know everything.” She participated in activities such as Campus Day and attended choral concerts, theatre productions, dances, and faculty teas. And she dated Carlton Tator, the only member of his family who did not attend Reed. A great influence on Margaret’s life was Reed librarian Nell Avery Unger [1927–37], who later became head librarian in Portland. “She was an intelligent, smart lady, and she advised me to go to Columbia when I was deciding to be a librarian. (And she hired me as a branch librarian when I returned to Portland.)” Margaret earned a BS in library and archival science from Columbia in 1939. She and Carlton Tator married and had one son, John. They lived for 40 years in Palo Alto, where Carlton worked for United Airlines, and following Carlton’s death, Margaret returned to Oregon and lived in King City. Her son died in a traffic accident in 1984.

Writing about Margaret, librarian Tony Greiner reflected on meeting “this white-haired little old lady,” who wanted to learn to use computers more than 17 years ago at the Tigard library. “I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she caught on, and soon she was given the job of checking donations to see if we already had copies in our collection. It wasn’t long before she would bring a few volumes to me and say things like ‘We don’t have this book under this name, but we do as an alternative title.’ That led to my discovering her professional experience. Once a librarian, always a librarian. We became friends, sharing food and talking books and of her travels to Japan, Australia, Africa, and Kansas City.”

From King City, Margaret moved into the Holladay Park Plaza retirement community in northeast Portland to be with her sister. “Margaret had to reduce her belongings when she moved,” wrote Greiner, “but she kept a fine set of R.L. Stevenson that belonged to her father, and a well-worn first edition of Out of Africa by Dinesen. That one she had picked up when it was new. For her 100th birthday, she was taken on a fast ride in a red convertible by a nephew, visited the house she grew up in, and marveled at the size of a tree planted by her father.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2015

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