We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Margaret Sowma, for many years an alternate board member representing Windsor Square on the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a labor and community activist for many decades before that. Sowma was 105 years old, and succumbed to COVID-19 yesterday at the St. John of God assisted living facility. Her niece, Julie Bawcom, sent us this obituary:
“Margaret Sowma departed us sometime in the early morning of Sunday January 10, 2021 after a courageous battle with COVID 19. Margaret was the first of three children born in New London Connecticut to recently immigrated parents from the Bakaal Valley of Lebanon and Damascus, Syria. As a toddler she survived the 1918 pandemic, along with her two younger brothers Joe and George. The family soon moved to Clifton New Jersey where Margaret graduated the top student from her 8th grade class in 1928. Soon after, the Great Depression hit and Margaret had to work to help the family and was not able to attend High School.
Beginning on the east coast, and for the next 50 years, she worked as a seamstress working in factories sewing garments. During World War II Margaret became active in the USO helping to entertain soldiers who were far from home and getting ready to deploy overseas. She lost her brother Joe in 1944 during a training flight for the U.S. Navy. After the war, the family moved to Los Angeles in 1948 to make a new start. Margaret continued her career in the garment industry in Los Angeles, becoming an organizer and active member in the garment union for many years. She retired in 1980 and began her second career of volunteering and activism. At the age of 79, in a show of solidarity, she chained herself to a sewing machine outside a garment factory to protest poor wages and working conditions, and was arrested for her efforts.
Margaret volunteered 30 years for the American Red Cross, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and she was a block captain for the Greater Wilshire district of Los Angeles and a member of the California Senior Congress. She helped new immigrants register to vote, and every election day worked for a voting precinct. She and two of her co-workers held the Guinness World Record for cutting, sewing and ironing a dress in under 5 minutes. She sewed all her own clothes and always loved to dress up and go out.
She loved dances continuing to attend swing dancing into her late 80s. She taught sewing classes at the community college, attended lectures at the USC School of Journalism and belonged to various clubs and organizations. At the age of 99 she moved from her home in the Wilshire district to St. John of God assisted living, where she stayed for the last six and a half years. Her group of friends who attended her 100th birthday party on April 25, 2015 included every age, gender I.D., race, religion and ethnicity. Margaret was truly a cosmopolitan lady who loved life and all who shared it with her.
Two of her favorite sayings included one by an old neighbor in her L.A. neighborhood, Mae West, who once said “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” The other from an unknown author: “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes their way.” With love from your family and friends you will always be remembered and missed.”
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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