Margaret Warnock
Margaret Warnock

Obituary of Margaret Voeltz Warnock

A child of war, an immigrant, a world traveler and adventuress, a fashion icon, a cook extraordinaire, a talented seamstress, a self-taught musician, a passionate animal lover, a loyal friend, a caring daughter, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, and a devoted wife are just a few of the words that only begin to describe Margaret Warnock.  Margaret was born Reet Mannik on Dec 28, 1935, in Viljandi, a jewel of a town in southwestern Estonia.  She initially enjoyed a comfortable life as the daughter of the beautiful multilingual Hildegard and Paul Mannik, an officer in the Estonian Army.  Reet enjoyed being the pampered first grandchild of the Rabis and Manniks, and could play the piano by ear at age four.  She was thrilled when her baby sister Kai was born on July 10, 1939, but this joy soon faded when the Soviets forcibly annexed Estonia and conscripted her father into the Russian army less than a year later in June 1940.


Reet, Kai and Hildegard soon moved to the nearby town of Elva along with Reet’s beloved grandmother Marie, whose husband Andrew Rabi died after his meatpacking business was confiscated by the Soviets. The last time Reet saw her father was in 1941 when his regiment marched past their Elva home withdrawing to Russia when the Germans invaded Estonia.  Reet and her family were planning to follow him to Russia via ship along with other Estonian families, but Paul warned against it.  His advice proved sound as the ship they were scheduled to board was ultimately sunk by the Germans, drowning the entire shipload of Estonian wives and children. Still in Elva, her mother found work in Tartu while Grandmother Marie took care of Reet and Kai.  Life wasn’t easy, and Margaret recalled “I remember long trains of railroad cars filled with people of all ages, presumably destined for concentration camps...  At age 5, I was sent to get milk in a 3-liter tin can but found the train so long I tried to climb through an opening to keep from having to walk around it.  A German soldier pointed a rifle at me, so I took the long way around and was just relieved to get home”.  Meanwhile, her father was severely wounded by shrapnel from an exploded bomb in one of the bloodiest battles fought by the Estonian Rifle Corps of the Russian Army on the Eastern front – the battle of Velikije Luke (Dec. 9, 1942-Jan.26, 1943).   Due to faulty communications, his family presumed him dead. 


Hildegard, Marie, Rett and Kai boarded a ship to Germany, and despite being bombed by the Germans en-route, ultimately made safe passage, arriving at a Displaced Persons Camp.  Hildegard ultimately left the camp and passed as a volksdeutsche, warning Reet and Kai not to speak since they knew no German at the time.  Reet lost her beloved Grandmother Marie to a stroke on Reet’s 9th birthday.    The family finally ended up in Bad Ischl Austria, where Hildegard worked for a dentist.  Living in a crowded single room apartment, she was forced to place Reet and Kai into a nearby children’s home for war orphans.  Despite being separated from her mother, Reet thrived in school, made friends and learned German rapidly.    Thankfully the allies won the war, and Hildegard met Reet’s future adoptive American father, Herman Voeltz at a club in 1946.  Learning her husband was in fact still alive, Hildegard divorced Paul and he willingly gave up custody of his daughters since he knew they would never return to Estonia, although the Russian consulate put up an unsuccessful fight.   They moved to Vienna for a year, and then Reet took the first of many airplane rides in her lifetime, immigrating to Washington DC in June 1947.


The family settled in Chicago for two years while Herman earned his master's in US History at the University of Chicago, where Margaret recalled she endured name calling due to her heavy eastern european accent. The family americanized Reet’s name to Margaret and Kai’s name to Katherine to better blend in.  The girls spoke english fairly well, as Herman helped with daily English lessons, and Margaret entered the 5th grade in the fall of 1947.  Her half-brother Richard was born Dec 4, 1948, when Reet was 12, and she reluctantly took on new babysitting duties.    Margaret moved west with her family in 1949.  Margaret stopped first in Santa Fe, New Mexico before becoming a true Oregonian after her new father took a history teaching job at the University of Oregon, first in Springfield and later in Eugene.  Her half-sister Andrea was born in April 1952, but unfortunately had severe Down’s syndrome, and spent most of her life in a care home.


Margaret graduated from University High School in Eugene, and proudly became a naturalized US Citizen on August 23, 1954.  She studied pre nursing at the University of Oregon and later moved to Portland to finish her studies, where she happened to meet a young and handsome medical student and future radiologist named Gerald Warnock.  She wasn’t very impressed with him initially, but thanks to his persistence, changed her mind when he returned from an African Safari in 1957.  They got engaged on Valentine’s Day and married just a few short months later on June 7, 1958.   Although she was close to finishing her nursing degree, Margaret elected to move to Hawaii instead with her new husband who was starting his internship at Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu, effectively resulting in a three-year honeymoon. 


The newlyweds initially moved to a tiny apartment near Waikiki beach, where they were constantly serenaded by their neighbors across the street, who were practicing their songs “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I have to do is Dream”.  Fortunately, Margaret and Gerald moved to a different home in Aiea Heights before the Everly Brothers actually could wake up little Susie, Margaret’s firstborn daughter, Susan Elizabeth, born Sept 27, 1959.  Margaret and Susie were introduced to a life of adventure early on with Gerald, who took both wife and daughter on a path to the very edge of the Kilauea Iki eruption, the heat literally melting baby Susie’s infant carrier causing Margaret to object strenuously.  That didn’t stop the three from taking another close up view of the Kapoho eruption shortly thereafter.  They were living on the big island by this time in Scofield Barracks, where in addition to viewing active volcanoes, Margaret spent her spare time performing as a Tahitian dancer at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC).  Six months later they were back on Oahu.


Margaret began her extensive life of exotic travel while still living in Hawaii.  The couple took advantage of the free military transport, and explored India, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Philippines in the fall of 1960.  She tearfully left her young daughter and cat back in Hawaii but was excited to experience all Asia had to offer, especially the shopping in Hong Kong based on her written journal entries.  She still wore (and looked fabulous in) the red dress and jacket she had custom made in Hong Kong in 1960 as late as 2023.    She was naturally excited to come home to little Susie after missing her first birthday, but a lifelong animal lover, she sounded just as excited to see her beloved kitty. 


When Margaret was six months pregnant with Cynthia Lehua, the family moved back to Portland, Oregon, where Gerald finished his residency, and they moved to their first home on Marigold Street.  Cynthia was born Sept 21, 1961, and Margaret’s family was complete.  Margaret loved raising her daughters and supporting her husband as he gradually built up his tiny radiology practice into the literally EPIC practice it became.  She moved to her Raleigh Hills home in 1966 where she remained until the day she died (at least when she wasn’t traveling somewhere in the world). 


In 1972 she ventured to the Sudan with Gerald and some friends on her first African Safari, which she told the hospice nurse was one of her favorite trips.  She visited Africa 48 more times in subsequent years, as countries changed names in between trips.  She always remained Gerald’s faithful safari companion, no matter how primitive or dangerous the conditions might be.  She ultimately set foot on every continent, from the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between, even when forced to persevere through illness and injury, since typically the only doctor available was her husband.   Altitude sickness meant she had to be carried up the last 2000 feet in a basket made of straw to a sheep hunting camp in Nepal, and when she fell off a horse and broke her collarbone in South Africa, she had to simply grin and bear it until after the hunt (although she probably wasn’t grinning).  She preferred riding elephants in India and Bali, where she managed to stay astride.  Name a country and she’s probably been there. 


Margaret was not only an adventuress constantly on the road, but she also literally ran on the road completing two full marathons, the Seaside Marathon and the Honolulu Marathon.  She even attempted cross country skiing in her fifties with her daughter Cynthia’s family.  She spent a lot of time fishing on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers and Pacific Ocean, braving multiple dangerous Columbia River bar crossings as Gerald’s first mate on his fishing boat, the Constitution.  She kept on traveling with Gerald despite suffering from arthritis and endured numerous surgeries, including total knee and shoulder replacement, back fusions, and cardiac ablations.  Although she certainly preferred the finer things in life, she was ultimately as tough as any man or woman could be. 


When she wasn’t traveling, Margaret was busy doting on her family and constantly ferrying her children and their friends to piano lessons, riding lessons, cheer practice, etc..    She was the original dance mom, spending hours at the dance studio waiting for Susan and Cynthia to finish lessons, sewing costumes, etc, all while completing her own latest intricate needlepoint, crochet or knitting project.  (You knew you were truly part of the family when she made you a personalized Christmas stocking.) She was a talented seamstress, always dressed beautifully in the latest fashions, and sported a casual chic Lululemon style in her final year, courtesy of her granddaughter Kelsey.  She was strikingly beautiful her entire life, no matter her hair style or color, and she rarely missed a hair or nail salon appointment, even when her health was failing at the end.  


In addition to her creative sewing skills, Margaret was a fabulous cook, and somehow managed to do miracles with whatever game Gerald would bring home, whether it be salmon, duck, moose, venison or whatever was in the overloaded game freezer.    She might have held the line on cooking bear and alligator though.  In any case, there was always a yummy snack waiting for the kids after school and a delicious dinner on the table every night, no matter how late they arrived home from their after-school activities. 


Margaret had a strong sweet tooth, and craved coconut cream pie, caramels and Bavarian cream donuts, and LOTS of sugar in her very strong coffee.  She particularly enjoyed gin and tonics when she was younger, and was a great entertainer, hosting large annual holiday parties.  When the party really got going, she brought her accordian out of the closet and played her favorite “Lara’s Theme” from Dr. Zhivago.  Margaret had many dear friends and family, including her own parents, Hildegard and Herman and mother-in law, Elsie Battaglia who passed before her, and she missed them all terribly. 


She was a music aficionado and frequently asked her daughter Susan (despite very little talent) and granddaughter Emily (lots of talent) to play the piano for her, and loved it when her beloved Dachshund, Max, would join in with even louder accompanying howls.   She enjoyed musicals, old movies, the ballet and opera and was an avid reader.  But she also stayed current on the latest television shows with her faithful TV guide.   A true anglophile, she could easily recite the names of King Henry’s six wives, and probably the wives of every English king who came before and after.   She loved playing gin rummy, and was always willing to learn a new game, whether it be Euchre or dominoes.


Margaret could be quite opinionated and wasn’t hesitant to share critical views, but no one better dare criticize HER family, because they of course were all perfect!  She was first on the scene for the birth of every one of her five grandchildren, even if it meant a red eye cross country flight to Connecticut or Indiana.  She was elated to become a great grandma two times over, when Susan’s daughter Kaitlin and Cynthia’s daughter Celene had their babies within two hours of each other on the same day.  She was also thrilled when her grandson Nick recently proposed to his girlfriend, Luly, bringing her extra joy during her final days and when granddaughter Kaitlin announced that her 5th great grandchild was on the way.


Margaret did eventually return to Estonia and enjoyed getting to know her half siblings Ann and Toomas and their families, as Paul Mannik had remarried after returning from Russia.   Unfortunately, her father passed away before she could ever see him again.     She enjoyed hosting her Estonian family in turn when they came to visit the U.S.   


Margaret and Gerald celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this year, and she loved her husband deeply, despite forcing him to watch the Mariners play on his iPad instead of the tv, since she preferred watching news to sports.  She leaned on him for all important decisions in her life, including her decision to choose hospice during her final days.  She might have preferred he hunted and fished a little less at times, and definitely insisted on an early end to his aviation dreams on threat of divorce, but she was his number one supporter and he rarely traveled without her.


Her family of course included all of her beloved pets, which were her favorite topic of conversation, perhaps rating even higher than the great grandkids.  Those same pets sometimes made conversation with her difficult, given Chui, her Bengal cat, would interrupt with exceptionally loud meows every time she picked up the phone, or Max, her dachshund, would bark to get back on her lap.  Coco, her Boykin spaniel, Tchala her Bombay cat, and Max and Chui were constant loving companions to Margaret, and rarely left her side or bed during her final days.   She even rather enjoyed it when Max sometimes growled at the rest of us when he wanted Margaret to himself.  She had many beloved pets over the years, and it broke her heart every time one passed over the Rainbow Bridge.    


Margaret was at home surrounded by her family in her final days and had the opportunity to say goodbye to all of her loved ones near and far, either at her bedside or over Facetime.  She adored her caretaker Susan Walker who helped her immensely during her final months.  Her two daughters and granddaughters held her hand and hugged her as she passed peacefully with Gerald, as always, by her side.   In her own words, found in one of her writings, “All I can say is, my life has been great!”


Margaret is survived by her husband, Dr. Gerald Warnock; daughters Susan Kirkpatrick (Rob) and Cynthia Christensen (Lyle); grandchildren Celene Blair (Cody), Emily Christensen, Kaitlin Kirkpatrick (Nate Duren), Kelsey Kirkpatrick, Nicholas Kirkpatrick; great grandchildren Archer Kirkduren, Aeowyn Blair, Torin Blair and Kalliope Kirkduren; sisters Kai Barkee and Ann Laurits; brothers Richard Voeltz and Toomas Mannik; nephews Douglas Barkee, Gregory Barkee, Andres Laurits, Kristian Laurits, Margus Mannik, Kevin Warnock, and Andrew Warnock. 


At Margaret’s request, there will be a private memorial scheduled later this year.


The family requests those that wish to express their sympathy to consider making a donation to their favorite pet charity in Margaret’s name in lieu of flowers.

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