Florida Trail Association

Remembering Marjorie Pugh

 

Marjorie “Yogi” Pugh
August 17, 1960 – November 16, 2020
Black Bear Chapter:
Section Leader & Chapter Council Representative

In Memory of Marjorie Pugh
by Jo Anne Rodkey, Black Bear Chapter

It is difficult to write about Marjorie in the past tense.  She was filled with such zest for life and adventure! Everything she did was pursued with dedication and an intensity for learning.  To help her find focus, her father encouraged her to join the navy at the age of 19.  After her enlistment period was up, she attended college and then joined a research ship in the Bering Sea as part of a U.S. missile tracking station.  Her background in science led her to become a rocket scientist (system maintenance engineer) for the Air Force Space Command.  Her success has served as a role model and inspiration for other women to develop their strengths and follow their dreams.  

Marjorie developed a love of the outdoors from growing up in Florida.  Her love of the Ocala Forest started through her experiences as an ultrarunner.  As part of a run club, she frequently ran 20 mile sections of the Florida Trail.  That led to her interest in backpacking and her goal to thru-hike the Florida Trail.  

Marjorie served an activity leader and as vice-president of the Black Bear Chapter and was our representative on the Florida Trail Chapter Council.  She was enthusiastic about trail maintenance and approached the job with tenacity.  She had a calmness and ease about her that made others feel welcomed.  Marjorie was genuine, fun-loving, and a good friend.  She will be sorely missed. 

Remembering My Friend, Marjorie Pugh
by North Florida Trail Program Manager, Jeff Glenn

Meeting Marjorie Pugh for the first time came as a surprise– one of those chance encounters that will stick with me forever.  It was February 2014 and it was a normal month in Big Cypress– the trail was knee deep with water. Our camp was nestled in a pine island, a dry haven in a sea of mud and water, located right near the trail.  Late one afternoon after a hard day’s work on the trail, two hikers emerged from the swamps with barely any gear on them. They had that classic look that says ultra-marathoner: long, lean, soaked, and smiling. These two hikers were Yogi and Salt Shack, friends and athletes that had a history of running together. They were on a Florida Trail run, starting in Big Cypress and headed north as far as they could.  It was their first day, and they were trying to make it to 13-Mile Camp, which is a 17-mile hike from the southern terminus of the FT.  Marjorie, a.k.a. Yogi, and Tim, a.k.a. Salt Shack, were tired and running out of daylight.  Yogi was exhausted in a way that I could visibly see, almost ready to crash but they still had about 7 miles left to go. We refueled them with food and water and bid them farewell.

Fast forward one month, and I was having a beer sitting on the porch of the world-famous 88 Store in the Ocala National Forest after another trail work day. Who runs up, but Salt Shack and Yogi.  It was as if no time had passed, and they were once again running into my camp just like they had so many hundreds of miles ago. It happened to be Marjorie’s last day on the trail and I was lucky enough to say goodbye and congratulations. Little did I know that she would become an active FTA member and trail volunteer and that she would become such a personal inspiration and friend to me and to so many others in our community.

It never took long to learn something new from Margie.  Every conversation, every story, every project was an opportunity to really engage with someone who had a passion for life that is seldom found.  At every phase in her life she was doing something radical.  As a Florida teen, Margie was a rebel, skateboarding her way through life until she joined the professional skater circuit. It was her passion and she threw her heart into it, just as she would so many times in her life with other pursuits. To help her find focus, her father encouraged her to join the navy at the age of 19.  After her enlistment period was up, she attended college and then joined a research ship in the Bering Sea as part of a U.S. missile tracking station. Her Navy track led her to become a rocket scientist for the Air Force Space Command.

Along the way, Margie developed a love for motorcycles and she joined a biker “gang”, as she described it. As a woman riding alone, approaching what she described as a group of burly men, most with their women riding behind them on the bike, she had to prove herself worthy of the group. An outsider marching to the beat of her own drum, she was not a typical biker on the surface. But she was indeed worthy!  She was welcomed and donned the biker name ‘Solo’ because that’s how she rolled.

Margie was a very spiritual person and she studied all religions from a place of deep respect and curiosity.  She was fascinated by the Orthodox Jewish community in her home in Ormond Beach and she befriended them as they would walk by her house on the Sabbath.  As a way to communicate with them on a closer level, she took it upon herself to learn Hebrew.  Just like that, she would throw herself into something, especially if it would deepen her connection to people.

After many years of trail running, often on the FT, Marjorie joined the Black Bear Chapter of the FTA.  She went on to become a chapter officer and section leader. Part of Juniper Prairie Wilderness will forever be known as Margie’s Mile as it was her section to maintain. Her role as trail volunteer, Vice-Chair of the chapter and as the Chapter Council Representative were done with tenacity.

In the past couple of years her passion, and what I saw as the culmination of so much of her energy was Dancing Bear Farm and Discotheque.  Located in the historic area of Barberville, FL, the farm was her dream of land, peace, and a place to throw her labor into something meaningful and good.  As her retirement approached, the farm was her focus and she was out there every weekend planting longleaf pines and restoring the land to a healthy ecosystem.  Margie and I were both involved in our own land restoration projects and she would call me to talk about tractors, trucks, barns, chainsaws, and mowers and we would share our successes and struggles.  I regret never having made it over to see, or dance at, the farm as I’m sure there was always a great time to be had.  From what I gather and from what I know about Margie, the farm was transforming into something special.

What I loved most about Margie is that she was fun loving and always game for anything.  I will miss our time on the trail together, our time around the fire, and most definitely the stories that she would tell me about her life that always amazed me, that showed the richness of her character.  She taught me to always listen, because we all have stories that are not written on the cover. Her book of life was epic and full of adventure and joy. I’m heartbroken that it was never finished but I’m grateful for all of what I gathered from it.