Dunnellon- Margaret Mary Longhill passed away peacefully in the early morning of March 1st. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky on October 16, 1921. She was the daughter of John and Angela Longhill. She would become the oldest of seven children. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee when Margaret was about three years old. She attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and graduated from Catholic High School. Margaret was at the top of her class scholastically. She won the school’s oratorical contest in her senior year and competed in the Memphis city-wide contest. Shortly after graduation, Margaret left home to become a Sister of Mercy at the novitiate in Dubuque, Iowa. She took the name Sister Mary Amora as a nun. During her tenure as a nun, she taught various grade levels at St. Bernard Academy in Nashville and at Immaculate Conception Academy in Memphis. As head of the Drama Department, she directed and produced such Broadway shows as “My Fair Lady”, “Brigadoon”, and many more. Even though the shows were put on by an all-girl academy, the productions were enhanced by the male actors whom Margaret recruited from the local communities. She eventually became Dean of Students at Edgecliff College in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the early 70's the Sisters of Mercy relaxed their restrictions and allowed their members to wear conventional dress and to teach in areas not under the direct control of the convent. Margaret took the option to teach at several public colleges in Central Florida. She taught at Central Florida Community College (now Central Florida College) in Ocala, Lecanto, and Brooksville. Margaret also taught at the Senior Institute and for Elderhostel groups including canoe trips. Margaret fell in love with Florida; it's history, environment, music and people. A neighbor introduced her to Will McLean. A native Floridian, he was passionate about the love of the land; the responsibility of preserving Florida's environment, it's history, the music, etc. Her relationship with Will McLean was a whole new experience. She admired his knowledge and love of the land, his dedication to protecting Florida's unique environments, and his quest to preserve the history and culture of Florida's early settlers. Margaret and Will became close friends and she adopted his concerns as her own. She began a campaign to teach the whole world about the beauty and the fragility of the Florida environments. She immersed herself in study and expanded her teaching to include civic groups, family, friends, and senior classes. She became an avid member of the Florida Folklore family. Will died in January, 1990. Shortly before he died, Margaret started a foundation, the Will McLean Foundation, to foster that love of the land, the music, and the people of Florida that Will McLean held close to his heart. Margaret was also responsible for the collection and display of Will’s life and work which is housed in the Department of Special and Area Studies of the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida. Shortly after Will's death, Margaret and a group of Will’s followers held what was probably the first Will McLean Festival at the Thomas Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The Will McLean Festival became an annual event and is now in its 29th year. The event attracts thousands of attendees from all over Florida and the South.
Margaret is survived by her youngest sister, Ann Elise Connors"Nikki", her sister-in-law, Jean Longhill, 22 nieces and nephews, and dear friends Jon and Deedee Semmes.
In lieu of flowers - pictures, remembrances and donations may be made to: The Will McLean Foundation
12088 Palmetto Ct., Dunnellon, FL 34432 (http://willmclean.com)
(optional line: The organizers of the Will McLean Music Festival will hold a, “Farewell to Margaret” event on Sunday, March 11th at this year’s festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch near Brooksville.)
The Will McLean Foundation
12088 Palmetto Ct., Dunnellon FL 34432