Written by: Lise Stampfli Torme
Margaret “Ketch” Root
An inspiration, a generous friend and a beloved family member
Margaret was born and grew up in the tight knit community of Maple Falls Washington. A precocious and independent child she loved swimming at the local Y, and fishing for salmon with her dad, a diesel mechanic and veteran of WWII who served in the Army Corps of Engineers. Margaret, 4 years older than her next-in-line sibling, looked after the young ones helping her parents with many tasks. In these early years, she discovered what would become a life long inclination to solve challenges with the vigorous application of energy and single minded focus. As early as 14 she wrote a column for the local newspaper the “Samas News,” and continued writing regularly through her high school years, getting paid 15 cents a word for her tales and impressions of what mattered to the youth of her community.
The call of adventure and independence led Margaret, upon graduating from (Mt. Baker High School—Class of 65) to leave family behind. She hitch-hiked solo to Ketchikan Alaska where she supported herself by working initially in a fish cannery while enrolling in general education and business classes at the Ketchikan junior college. It was in Alaska that she picked up the nick name “Ketch.” It has stuck to her throughout her professional and social life.
Her finest friends and mentors in Alaska were husband and wife (David) and Jean Tressler who urged Margaret to expand her possibilities and helped her to achieve her first professional position working as a station agent for Balakala Airlines —later to become Pacific Northwest Airlines. The Tressler’s influence, particularly Jean’s, set Margaret on a lifelong course to prove by example a woman’s value in the workplace and to break barriers to women’s career advancement. Margaret did not have to preach feminism, in these times of chauvinism and discrimination in the workplace, Margaret proved her worth just by applying herself.
Margaret’s career path took her from Pacific Northwest Airlines to Western Airlines where she was transferred to Seattle. In 1968 Margaret and sisters in the Western workforce were part of a precedent setting sexual discrimination class lawsuit against company policies. The women were awarded a record setting $12 million which forced industry to change discriminatory policies and provide advancement opportunities for women. Margaret was groomed for management and raised to new duties. She supervised training of station and ticket agents and later took on VIP sales, marketing and promotional duties. She excelled in managing events with budgets in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The deregulation of the airline industry in the 70s cost Margaret her job at Western. She then took a challenging position at Continental leading a team of MIT grads in creating a management information system to track Continental’s then $1 billion in sales. The system was a widely acknowledged success, but when Continental was acquired by Texas Intercontinental, Margaret had enough of the threat that comes with corporate makeovers to job security and quit.
The purchase of her first IBM PC set her on a track to independence, and ignited her latent entrepreneurial spirit. Her experience in corporate organization, information systems and finance helped Margaret become a go-to consultant for mid to large sized businesses. Business plans, marketing plans, operational makeovers were her speciality in these years.
In 1985 she was approached by Hambrecht and Quist to help build a new airline and design its ticket sales system. Margaret is listed as a founding Vice President of People’s Express and participated in taking this airline public.
Leader and Mentor
Margaret’s special brand of business know-how, combined with her creativity and gutsiness have inspired generations of business owners. As she was mentored by the Tresslers, she sought out opportunities to mentor others. She is a founder of Networking Entrepreneurial Women of Marin (N.E.W. of Marin.) Her sisters in this group valued her wealth of experience and her generosity in advising them on the many challenges of running a business.
Beloved Friend, Daughter, Sister
Margaret leaves behind lifelong and new friends who remember her fondly for her penchant for animal prints and bling (the real thing!) global travel and experiences, pride in 20 years of going braless, her love of art and creativity, and her estimable passion for play after hard work.
Her fondest memories were of swimming with dolphins, a Boston Whaler cutting though warm, Bahamian waters, sharing good times with friends and the love of her Scottish terrier Heidi, whose birth day, May 10 she shared.
Margaret leaves these parting words for friends and family. “I have no regrets, only gratitude beyond expression, but I want to observe that with all we do in our busy, busy lives, we always have time to reach out and help a sister and we can always and should do more. “
Margaret is survived by her sister Ingrid Marie Root Olana of Arlington Washington, brother John Michael Root of English Cave, Washington and her mother Margaret Ethel Root of Maple Falls Washington. She is predeceased by her brother Joseph Rhodell Root Jr. and father Joseph Sr.
Biography and Tribute by Lise Stampfli Torme
Lise is a co-creative director in the boutique design firm Torme Design (tormedesign.com) of San Anselmo California and creative director of the political consulting firm GreenDog Campaigns of San Rafael, California. She teaches Communication and visual design classes at Dominican University of California. tormedesign.com