Margaret Diane (Johanson) Fickel lived a creative, playful and exceptionally detailed life of warmth, beauty, family and friends. She died on Nov. 23, 2022 in Seattle at the age of 92.
From the time she was born to Helge Johanson and Florian (Culver) Johanson in Bellingham, WA in 1930, Marggy spent her days between family homes in Bellingham and Orcas Island, and in the last decade of her life, Bellevue, where she lived with son Mark and daughter-in-law Patti. There she enjoyed frequent visits with her daughter Jane Heffernan, her three grandchildren, Paul Fickel (Ana), Kim Motley (Travis) and Katie Berry (Marcus), and her eight great-grandchildren: Blake, Myles, Reyna, Jack, Cade, Tatum, Sara and Wesley.
Along with her brother and multiple Culver cousins, Marggy spent her growing-up summers at her grandparents’ farmhouse near Pt. Lawrence on Orcas Island, babysitting, picnicking, and later foxtrotting and otherwise kicking up her ballroom heels as often as possible at Saturday night dances at Deer Harbor.
She met Donald L. (Jim) Fickel, at age 14 at Bellingham High School. They both attended the University of Washington, where Marggy made lifelong friends as a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. Marggy and Jim were married on Sept. 29, 1951. She graduated with a BA in Elementary Education in 1952, working a year with kids with disabilities before Jane was born. They moved shortly thereafter to California for two years, where Jim was an Air Force dentist and Mark was born.
Back in Bellingham, Marggy stayed home to raise Jane and Mark, and the family spent much of its spare time building their Orcas summer cabin near Doe Bay, almost entirely with their own hands. Marggy was active in PEO, as well as social and church groups. She and Jim were very involved in Evangelical Free Church and with the “Growing Families International” program.
In 1992, Marggy and Jim made Orcas their year-round home, where Marggy was perhaps happiest when beachcombing and roadside-gathering and then transforming the collected treasures into exquisite arrangements. We say perhaps because then there was the visiting: with neighbors, relatives, friends, the firemen who put out the chimney fire (twice) shopkeepers, fellow ferry passengers… all worthy of a chat. Children were possibly her favorite people of all, a feeling that was mutual among countless members of the under-10 set over three generations. No other adult took them as seriously, played as devotedly or dreamed up better activities than Marggy, who joined their fun on the floor well into her 80s.
At just five feet tall, that wasn’t as hard for her as it might be for others. Did that explain her appreciation of all things tiny? Hard to say. But Marggy’s keen eye for detail showed up in every aspect of her life, from the way she dressed (tailored, layered) to the way she set her table (elegant, inviting), made her home (cozy, eclectic) or seasoned her potato salad (perfectly).
Very proud of her heritage – half Orcas, half Swedish – Marggy traveled twice to Sweden to visit beloved relatives. She was fascinated by color, loved anything lemony and delighted in making any occasion an “over the top, fancy-napkins special one.” (Kim). She was curious, up for adventure, and always the last to finish dinner. Despite a wonderful sense of rhythm, she regularly lost track of time.
Marggy relished the challenge of making do with what she had. Turns out, she had a lot, not least a large and loving family, a deep appreciation of place and an unshakable faith in God, all of which sustained her through nine decades of spirited living.
Marggy was preceded in death by her husband Jim Fickel and brother Larry Johanson. We’re pretty sure that once she chatted up St. Peter and passed through the Pearly Gates, Jim had the honor of the first dance. After that, she had a lot of visiting to do. We dearly miss her cheerful presence, and we’re so grateful for her life. A celebration of her life will be held on Orcas Island next spring. Her final resting place will be with loved ones at the Olga Cemetery. Memorials can be made to the Orcas Island Community Foundation.