DEARBORN – Marjorie “Marge” Powell, 87, the city’s first female city council president and an active community volunteer and leader, died Jan. 9 at her home in Ann Arbor.
A native of Jefferson City, Mo., where she excelled in school and Girl Scouting, Powell graduated in 1955 from the University of Missouri.
She married her husband, John, in 1957, and the two moved to Michigan in 1960, settling in 1964 in Dearborn. Her son, Curtis, was born in 1959, followed by a daughter, Constance, in 1963, who died 11 years later.
Powell began her civic leadership through the Parent Teacher Association, first at Lindberg Elementary, and working her way up to the presidency of the Dearborn PTA.
In 1977, with her PTA years behind her, Powell ran for the Dearborn City Council, and as the top vote getter, became the body’s president, serving two four-year terms.
She ran for mayor in 1985, advancing to the runoff, but lost there to Michael Guido.
Powell soon went to work for the Dearborn School District’s adult and community education program, and continued her community engagement.
She served on the University of Michigan-Dearborn Citizen Advisory Council, and from 1993 to 2010 on the Dearborn Civil Service Commission.
In 1988, Powell was one of the first woman welcomed into the Dearborn Rotary Club.
She was an active member of the Philanthropic Education Organization and the American Association of University Women-Dearborn, which honors her for her leadership legacy with the annual Marge Powell Leadership Award.
For her work with AAUW, she was named Service Club Member of the Year in 2006 by the Dearborn Inter-Service Council.
Former newspaper editor and past Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak said Powell served Dearborn well for many years in different capacities.
“I covered city government as editor of the Dearborn Press & Guide during her time on the council and remember her as an even-handed and effective council president,” he said. “More importantly, she was friendly and kind, widely respected and liked.”
Current City Council president Susan Dabaja said Powell was a trailblazer and a hero.
“As only the second woman to serve as city council president, I am grateful to the legacy she left behind,” she said.
AAUW-Dearborn President Valerie Murphy-Goodrich said Powell was a role model for ethical and informed leadership, and the AAUW is happy to sustain her example through their annual youth leadership awards in her name.
“Marge was an exemplary public servant and a wonderful person,” she said. “I was privileged to work for her. Hers was a life well-lived, and she will be sorely missed.”
A viewing is scheduled from 1 to 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at Howe-Peterson Funeral Home, and a private funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 16, which will be streamed live on YouTube.
At the family’s request, memorial contributions may be made to the American Association of University Women-Dearborn, to the Marge Powell Leadership Award, P.O. Box 2498, Dearborn, MI, 48123.
Powell leaves her brother, Tom Curtis; her son, Curt Powell; her grandchildren Rachel, Tori and Kal; and her great grandchildren Benjamin, Adam and Audrey.
To see her online obituary, go to howepeterson.com/obituary/marjorie-powell.