Margaret R. Eidem Barnhart

Margaret R. Eidem Barnhart, 93, formerly of rural Elk Point and Vermillion, died Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, surrounded by her daughter and family, at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale FL, one month before her 94th birthday.

Funeral services, open to the community, will be held at St. Paul Lutheran Church in rural Elk Point, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, with Rev. Mary Feistner officiating. Pallbearers will include her cousin Malyn Eidem, Ron Bird, Reid Bird, Burdette Hanson, Ben Quam, and John Slattery.  Honorary pallbearers will include Clarence Hanson, her son-in-law David Koontz, Shirley Eidem, Maxine Bird, Collette Bird, Gladys Hanson, Kristie Quam, and Gayle Slattery. Burial will be at St. Paul Lutheran Church cemetery, beside her beloved husband of 50 years, Robert E. Barnhart, who was laid to rest there in February, 1994, and along with her mother and father, Clara Rassmusson Eidem and Sivert O. Eidem and many other members of the Ole S. Eidem family. 

Margaret Eidem was born to Sivert O. Eidem and Clara Maria (Rassmusson) Eidem on Oct. 17, 1915, in Ada, MN, where Mr. Eidem was superintendant of schools. After Sivert passed away in 1916, his wife Clara fulfilled her husband's dying wish that she and little Margaret go to live with his father Ole S. Eidem and family at their farmstead in rural Elk Point. Little Margaret was an only child, but she grew up in rural Elk Point, surrounded by many cousins both in the Eidem family and her mother's Rassmusson family in rural Minnesota. All were Norwegian, and Margaret grew up bi-lingual, speaking both Norwegian and English all of her life.

Margaret was confirmed at St. Paul Lutheran Church, rural Elk Point in approximately 1928.  She attended Lamont School in rural Elk Point, and she maintained life-long friendships with LaVerne Quam and several other of her classmates and childhood friends here. She revered, honored, and kept in touch with her Lamont School teacher, Alice Albin, throughout Ms. Albin's life.  Margaret attended Elk Point High School, and graduated from Augustana Academy in Canton, South Dakota in 1934.

She attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls and graduated from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion on June 6, 1938, with a B.A. Degree and majors in Latin and Education, and a minor in Social Science. Margaret also studied art and piano, and she was a talented artist and accomplished pianist. She played both classical and popular music, and enjoyed composing music and lyrics dedicated to honoring others on special occasions.

She taught in high school for eight years, subjects including social science, English, Latin, and art, as well as coaching school plays. She taught at the high schools in Hull, IA, Bloomfield, NE, and Gayville.While teaching, she also became one of the first women to enter law school at the University of South Dakota Law School, where she studied both summer sessions in 1945.

Above all, Margaret had a special gift for teaching, and a lifelong purpose and passion to inspire others to reach their God-given potential. She took a personal interest in her students, in helping them to discover their own special interests and talents and to succeed in their studies and chosen life endeavors. She maintained contact with many of her former high school students throughout her life, and in letters and cards, many credited her with inspiring them in life. 

During World War II, she met Staff Sergeant Robert E. (Bob) Barnhart, then of Providence, RI, while he was stationed in Sioux Falls. They married at St. Paul Lutheran Church on March 25, 1944. After the war, she worked to help put her husband through law school at the University of South Dakota Law School in Vermillion, where he graduated with his law degree in 1949. 

During this time of his studies from 1946 through 1949, Margaret (whom Bob and many of their friends called "Marge") held the position of university guidance test counselor at the University of South Dakota, supervising a staff of 19 in administering and analyzing guidance testing and counseling of over 6,000 returning World War II veterans.

Margaret assisted her husband in his legal practice. Acting as a legal assistant in his office, she found and interviewed witnesses and experts, and otherwise assisted with trial preparation and documents. She was his campaign manager in two successful campaigns when he was elected states attorney in Douglas County, South Dakota.

After their daughter Connie was born in 1951, Margaret elected to be a full-time mother. As a life-long educator, her primary pupil became her daughter. The family lived in Minneapolis, MN for about 37 years, where Bob was district counsel of the Small Business Administration for 33 years, and was president and national eighth circuit officer of the Federal Bar Association.  Marge and Bob were both very active in the Federal Bar Association, and had many friends in the legal profession and judiciary. Marge was a loving mother and mentor to both Connie and the family's "adopted" son Mauricio, who was with the family for five years while he attended the University of Minnesota, and who continues as part of the family. 

Marge inspired and helped Bob in his pro bono community and humanitarian service endeavors, which the Federal Bar Association recognized and honored after his death in 1994 by establishing the Annual Robert E. Barnhart Humanitarian Service Award, to be presented each year to a deserving young lawyer, in his memory.  At one of the award ceremonies that Margaret attended, the presenting officer remarked that this award properly should be named the "Margaret R. Barnhart and Robert E. Barnhart Humanitarian Service Award," because she was his equal partner and inspiration in the many good deeds of humanitarian service they lovingly performed together.
From 1996, Marge began living part of each year with her daughter Connie in Fort Lauderdale, FL, moving to Florida full time in 2001. From early 2007 to the time of her death, she was happy to live at the Classic Residence by Hyatt in Pompano Beach Assisted Living, just across the street from her daughter Connie and Connie's husband Dave. She maintained her interests in art, music, and current affairs, and was happy being near to and seeing her daughter every day until her death last Friday. She made new friends in Florida, and a visitation and services were held for her in Pompano Beach on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Margaret is survived by her only daughter Connie. Speaking of her mother, Connie said, "Throughout her life, my mother's primary focus and purpose was to inspire, motivate and help others. She wrote countless, gracious and kind notes and letters, remembered the birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions of her many friends, and took a real interest in their lives, interests and activities. A modest and thoughtful person, she dedicated her special talents to helping and uplifting others. She usually sent from 200 to 400 or more holiday cards each year (and received as many), often writing special, individual notes in each card. She loved people, and inspired so many students, friends, and lives she touched.  She left the world a better place by her having lived."

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