AFRH-W resident highlight – Margaret Jirak
By Christine Baldwin | Librarian
Margaret Jirak was born in a small community in New York State. Both she and one of her brothers caught scarlet fever as children. He died and Margaret ended up losing her hearing. In school, as long as the teacher was facing her, Margaret was alright, but she was lost if the teacher turned her back and continued talking. After graduation, Margaret worked in the payroll department at the Otis Elevator Company. When WWII started, one of her brothers entered the U.S. Navy. Since everyone in the community was joining the military, Margaret at the age of 21, decided to join the U.S. Marines. But they were full, so she joined the U.S. Navy. The nice thing was that Otis gave her a $200 bonus, showing their commitment to the cause. With her previous expertise, the job she performed during the war was in payroll at Norfolk, VA, and it covered a 50-mile radius.
When she returned home after the war, Margaret went back to working at Otis. A British company bought Otis out and after a year, they closed and everyone was out of a job. Since Margaret loved knitting, she decided to open a yarn shop. She also married and they had one son. Margaret had the business for ten years and then sold it to a woman who seemed very interested in continuing the shop. Unfortunately, the woman, who was supposed to pay Margaret back in increments, quit one day and Margaret was left in arrears. She ended up selling the yarn in her home, until she was good again. On a visit to Massachusetts, Margaret and her husband fell in love with a 14 room Victorian house and decided to buy it. When asked by the next door neighbor what they would do with it, Margaret said “Why live in it!” “No,” the neighbor said, “You should open a Bed & Breakfast.” And that is what they did. After another ten years, and her husband not doing well, they sold the house and moved to Florida. But they didn’t like it and moved to New Jersey, where Margaret opened another yarn shop and her husband worked at a coffee shop around the corner from her.
Both Margaret and her husband qualified to come to AFRH-W and did so in 2004. After he passed away in 2006, Margaret stayed on. One of the highlights for her was being the second ever Commander of the American Legion Post 70.