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Obituary: Celebrating the Life of Margaret Anne Boyer

Margaret Anne Boyer, who over more than 50 years became a well-known figure in Oxford and the University of Mississippi, died Oct. 18, 2018, in Needham, Massachusetts, from complications following a stroke. She was 95 years old.

Margaret Anne Boyer at Franklin College in 1941.

A memorial service is planned for Oxford at a future time.

Margaret Anne Dillard was born March 28, 1923, on a farm east of Paoli, Indiana. Her father, Arthur L. Dillard, Sr., was a town officer and prosecuting attorney, while her mother Irene Dillard made her own career as head of her own title abstract firm.

Margaret Anne was valedictorian of the 1940 Paoli High School class, and gave a commencement address with the title “Life Begins at Forty.”

At Franklin College, where she majored in English, Margaret Anne was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, became a sorority officer of Pi Beta Phi, and served on the education committee of the Franklin College War Council. After graduating in 1944, she taught high school in Indiana.

In June 1947, Margaret Anne married Roscoe A. Boyer, known to his friends and colleagues as Rocky. They were graduate students at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he studied psychology and she earned a master’s degree in journalism. During the Korean War, when Rocky was recalled to Air Force service, Margaret Anne took a teaching job in the Army school system at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She was there when the base schools were integrated, the first school system in the South to make this change.

In August 1955, the Boyers moved to Oxford, where Rocky began teaching at the University of Mississippi School of Education. They drove south from Indiana. Margaret Anne said that her introduction to Mississippi (which she never forgot) was the long stretch of tall timber and Sardis Lake backwaters on the approach to the Tallahatchie River bridge.

In Oxford, the Boyers were lifelong members of Oxford-University Methodist Church. Margaret Anne helped to organize the Oxford chapter of the League of Women Voters and to found the Ole Miss chapter of Pi Beta Phi (with which she also maintained a lifelong connection.) She worked as a substitute teacher, and supported her husband in his work for the Mississippi public schools. In 2017, when civil rights leader Dorothy Height was honored with the issue of a postage stamp, Margaret Anne bought up several sheets of the stamp at the post office. In the late Sixties, she and Rocky and her family had driven Ms. Height on a trip across Mississippi.

Like her husband, Margaret Anne was frequently seen riding her bicycle around Oxford and the campus. She was a recipe tester for Betty Crocker and often presented her family with “taste thrills.”

Rocky Boyer died in 2008. In August 2012, Margaret Anne moved to Needham, Massachusetts, where she lived with her son Edward’s family. She wrote countless letters and cards to friends, and made particular friends with post office staff, in Oxford and later in Needham. Through May of this year, when she suffered a severe stroke, she read the New Yorker and the New York Times every week.

Margaret Anne Boyer is survived by her sons Allen D. Boyer of Staten Island, New York, and his wife Kathleen, and Edward W. Boyer of Needham, Massachusetts, with his wife Debra; five grandchildren, Declan, Caleb, Thomas, Taryn, and Talia; her sister Frances Spangler of St. Petersburg, Florida; her brother- and sister-in-law George Laflin and Anndora Laflin of Kokomo, Indiana, and her sister-in-law Diane Dillard of Paoli, Indiana.

Donations may be made to the Friends of the J. D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi, or to Oxford-University United Methodist, in Oxford, Mississippi; Carter Memorial United Methodist Church, in Needham, Massachusetts, or Paoli United Methodist Church, in Paoli, Indiana.

Obituary courtesy of Allen Boyer

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