Author Margaret Pitcairn Strachan
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
Margaret Pitcairn Strachan's books of mystery and adventure charmed generations of young readers while offering tantalizing glimpses into history, nursing, anthropology and horse training.
Her articles for newspapers and magazines such as The Readers Digest did the same for adult readers.
She was curious about everything. If she found herself in a situation she knew little about, she immediately began asking questions and taking notes.
In her work she came to amass 5,000 books, refusing to part with one even in 1985 when she moved to a tiny apartment at Kirkland's Madison House complex. She lined the walls with shelves, and filled one closet with file cabinets full of notes.
"She was an extraordinarily organized and motivated person," said her son, John Strachan of Bainbridge Island. "She was a role model for me. I became a writer of screenplays. Even her grandchildren are showing interest and talent in writing."
Mrs. Strachan died Thursday (March 19) of the effects of a stroke. She was 89.
Born in Germantown, Pa., she always dreamed of becoming a writer. But she followed her parents' wishes and studied nursing. She left nursing school to marry Jack Strachan and start a family.
The demands of rearing three children during the Depression, when she lived in a cabin in Bucks County, Pa., left time for little else. She sold eggs door-to-door, then eventually found work with an abrasives firm that brought the family to Seattle in 1941.
Mrs. Strachan began to write magazine articles, then landed a freelance job with The Seattle Times.
"Her tenacity in pestering (features) editor Chet Gibbon for work turned into a reporter's job and, finally, a position as feature writer," her son said. "Her 52-article series, `Seattle Early Mansions,' is still available at the Seattle Public Library."
By 1947 Mrs. Strachan was helping run her Woodinville farm, working weekdays at the newspaper, and writing "juvies," or books for young readers, at night and on weekends. She later moved with her husband to Los Angeles and Cincinnati, and wrote for papers there.
The sale of her books began to make up a significant share of the family income. "Mystery of the Blue Barn Stables" was based on a show-horse operation in Woodinville. "Mennonite Martha" told of the experiences of an evangelical Christian girl.
Widowed in 1958, Mrs. Strachan spent a year in Europe getting ideas for novels. Back in Seattle, she married Jack Alexander, a lumber broker, in 1963 and moved to Whidbey Island.
She became a board member of the Mystery Writers of America, and earned the "Letters Award" from the National Pen Women's Association.
When Alexander died in 1985, she continued writing and took part in several writing groups.
"Peg was always ready to enjoy the day and whatever it brought," her son said. "She didn't worry very much."
"I don't think she ever had writer's block," said Seattle author Molly Cone, with whom Mrs. Strachan collaborated on one book, each writing a chapter. "If she found something wasn't working, she'd go on to something else. She was very practical."
In addition to her son John, Mrs. Strachan is survived by her daughter, Jackie McCarthy of Kirkland, and son, Bruce Pitcairn Strachan of Seattle; her sister, Jane Jobson, Atlanta; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
No services will be held.
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