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Marguerite Mary Kowaleski,(nee Kuhn), 96, passed away on November 6, 2023. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she received her BA degree in Philosophy from Rosary College in River Forest, Il before marrying Edward, who pre-deceased her in 2017 after 65 years of marriage, 50 of them in Farmington, MI. Marguerite and Ed had 9 children: Maryanne, Paula (Gordon) Bowman, Peter, Therese (Gary) Pilchak, Ruth, Cathy (Michael) Ierulli, Jean, Marie (Chris) Tolen and Joseph (Kris) as well as 13 grandchildren: Nick (Sabrina) Bowman, Sarah Bowman, Julieann (Conor) Dare, Jake Kowaleski, Madeleine (Alexander) McMall, William (Elise) Pilchak, Gregory (Emille) Pilchak, Clara Pilchak, Grace Tolen, Jack Tolen, Emma Kowaleski, Sophia Kowaleski and Julia Kowaleski as well as 7 great grandchildren: Micaela and Rocco Bowman, Seamus and Sean Dare, Emily and Andrew McMall and Maximilian Pilchak. Marguerite’s sister, Winifred Downing and brother, Nicholas Kuhn, both of California, pre-deceased her.
Marguerite was a life-long advocate for the poor. As a young adult in Chicago, she was heavily influenced by such progressive Catholic organizations as the Young Christian Students, Young Christian Workers and Christian Family Movement. Her working life in Michigan was devoted to volunteering as Chair of the Oakland County Welfare Rights Organization (WRO) for 40 years. WRO’s mission was to assist people in navigating the complicated social services network on the federal and state levels. Besides guiding her “clients” through the dehumanizing red tape to receive assistance, she also represented them in court, helped with their taxes, fought to get their utilities back on, and involved her own family to providing Christmas gifts for families in need. Marguerite played an especially crucial role in helping the Hmong immigrants who settled in Oakland County in the 1990s.
Marguerite’s advocacy work included testifying in front of the Michigan Legislature to advocate for fair Medicaid benefits, food subsidies, health and disability benefits and better childcare for low-wage families. She also participated in numerous demonstrations and walked on plenty of picket lines. Many profited from her bi-monthly newsletter that went to her “clients” as well as others in the human services field, and she was recognized as a leading expert in the state on Medicaid and other assistance programs. Her knowledge of Michigan’s social services system made her a welcome addition to many county and statewide commissions concerning society’s obligations to the poor.
Marguerite wrote hundreds of Letters to the Editor, using her voice to promote fair benefits and to chastise those in government who cut services to the poor without regard for the human impact. In a 1972 letter printed in the Detroit Free Press, she said, “What interest we have is in changing a system that while costing us greatly, does not begin to answer the needs of the poor. Our “special interest” is in providing people with the cash, the incentives, medical care, meaningful jobs, adequate housing, day care facilities, etc. that an enlightened nation owes the unfortunate.”
Throughout her years of working with underserved communities, Marguerite received numerous awards from civic and religious organizations, including the Liberty Bell Award from the State Bar of Michigan which recognizes outstanding service performed by a non-lawyer citizen who has given their time and energy to strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of freedom under law, the Award of Excellence from the Legal Aid & Defender Association, the Spirit of Detroit Heart of Gold Award, and the Belle Brotherton Award, the highest service award given by the League of Women Voters of Michigan Despite her many accolades, Marguerite was humble and compassionate, passing along many of her values concerning public service to her children and grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the Good Samaritan Program of Angela Hospice, 14100 Newburgh Road, Livonia, MI, 48154 or the Legal Aid & Defender Assn, 613 Abbott St, #630, Detroit, 48226.