After 22 years in Aiken, Margaret Fussell and her husband, Ted, moved in 2012 to Lake Murray – where she could have retired from her teaching career.
Yet she chose to drive an hour each way to Aiken Middle School because she really enjoyed teaching the gifted and talented students and keeping up with her Aiken friends.
Fussell died on Oct. 30, following a diagnosis of autoimmune kidney disease in July. Her husband, Ted, cited her school and church work, her joy of meeting new people and her enthusiasm to learn about other cultures and history throughout their travels.
During their 31-year marriage, “I was so fortunate. I got to see her every night,” Ted said. “Margaret was very active at St. Paul Lutheran Church, making sure that the Vacation Bible School got running. She didn’t wait around if there was something she knew that had to be done.”
On a trip to Germany, the couple and other church friends followed the footsteps of Martin Luther. A social studies teacher, Fussell wanted to see history for herself. She and a close friend, Marilyn Ericson, traveled to Amsterdam in 2013, eager in part to see the museums of Anne Frank and Vincent van Gogh.
“She was so special and made me a much better person,” Ericson said. “She taught me how to can, and we made wine together and started a lot of international festivals after church.”
The Fussells also wanted their three, now grown, children – Roy, Paul and Charlotte – to have travel opportunities. All three took German classes at Aiken High School, and with other students and their teachers, participated in exchange trips with students from Germany.
Two years ago, Fussell met a young teacher new to Aiken Middle School – Rosalyn Greene – now teaching at Jackson Middle School. In June, Fussell and Greene participated in a Holocaust Educational Tour.
As well as other sites, they visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, where millions of Jews and others were murdered. She and Fussell walked through the museums at Auschwitz, one room containing the hair removed by the Nazi’s from Jewish people after their deaths. Soon they were discussing how they could bring a cross-curricular program to their classrooms.
“It was hard for us to see (the Nazi’s) as rational human beings” Green said, “How well-educated people could not only allow such a thing, but to endorse it.”
Mark Rich, an Aiken Middle School social studies teacher, also called Fussell a special friend.
“The entire staff is deeply saddened,” he said. “The main comment is how we will miss her influence. She worked hard with every student she had.”
Fussell’s life ultimately centered on home – both in Aiken and Lake Murray, Ted said. Family have their handprints on a tablecloth – traced with marking pens many years ago. New family members added their handprints, as well.
In honor of Margaret, Ted said, the tradition will continue.
Rob Novit is a general news and feature writer for the Aiken Standard. He majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.