Sue Magruder, 1932-2021

A 1932 model in a 1935 model

Sue Lee Brimer Magruder, 88, of Kirksville, Missouri, died Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Kirksville. Sue was born on June 26, 1932 near Bowling Green, MO, the daughter of Cecil R. Brimer and Lottie Maude (Stanley) Brimer.

When Sue was two years old she moved with her family to Powell, WY, where they homesteaded in the Big Horn Basin. Her first memory on the homestead is of waking up in bed in the morning and finding snow on her face and eyelashes. In Wyoming, Sue’s Mom would look out the window upon the mountains and recite Psalm 121:1-2. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” This verse became Sue’s theme verse, sustaining her throughout her life.

Psalm 121:1-2 with Grand Tetons, photograph by Jackson Magruder
Psalm 121:1-2 with Grand Tetons, photograph by Jackson Magruder

In the 4th grade Sue checked a book out of the school library called Lost Worlds. It was a book about ancient civilizations and had a picture of Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple in Egypt. She thought it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen and determined she would one day go there. In August of 1990, she fulfilled that dream.

During World War II the family moved to Renton, Washington, before returning to Hannibal, MO, where Sue finished her last two years of high school. She attended Hannibal LaGrange College, receiving her Elementary Teaching Certificate. She then taught school in Antonia, MO, for two years before attending Northeast Missouri State Teachers College to finish her teaching degree. While standing in the registration line on June 4, 1954, she met a smiling young man named Jack Magruder. On their first date Jack told her that he was going to marry her and that he dreamed of someday becoming a science education professor at the college. 10 weeks later, on August 4, 1954, they were married at First Baptist Church in Kirksville. And she did finish her degree, graduating from the college in May of 1955.

The next several years were spent moving around the country (Iowa, Colorado, California, Louisiana) while Jack pursued his Masters and Doctoral degrees, Sue taught elementary school, and they grew their family. In 1964 the family returned to Kirksville where Jack had been offered a job teaching in the science division at Northeast Missouri State College. Sue eventually completed her Masters Degree at Northeast Missouri State University with additional work at University of Missouri-Columbia.

Sue dedicated her life to education. She taught for 13 years at Northeast Missouri State University. She served 9 years as First Lady of Truman State University and 4 years as First Lady of A.T. Still University. She was an adult Sunday school teacher for 11 years and a literacy teacher in the Adair County Adult Education Program. As recently as the 2019/2020 school year Sue was a reading tutor through the Oasis program at Kirksville Primary School.

She always loved to travel, read, fish, and do jigsaw puzzles. A place of special meaning to the family was Yellowstone National Park. One of the recent trips in 2015 included 17 members of her family. In 1966 Jack and Sue built their house in the country east of Kirksville where they raised their children along with numerous horses, cattle, hogs, cats, and dogs. There they welcomed generations of students from around the world, and countless gatherings of friends and family. She raised her family with superb love and dedication, leaving a legacy of faith, hope, and love.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Cecil and Lottie, by her sister, Aleta Fountain, and brother, Dale Brimer. She is survived by her beloved husband of nearly 67 years, Willis Jackson Magruder. She is also survived by her 3 children, Julie Beth Magruder Lochbaum, Kerry Vaughn Magruder (Candace), and Laura Ellen Magruder Mann (Marvin). Grandchildren include James (Rojina) Lochbaum, Anna (Matthew) Matheney, Rachel (Stephen) Folmar, Hannah Magruder, Zac Burden, Susanna Magruder, Jackson (Brianna) Mann, Jonathan Mann, and a great-grandson, Maverick Mann.

In 1992 Jack heard the song “Look At Us” on the radio and hand copied the lyrics in a love letter to Sue. He was correct that their love was the embodiment of the song – and that love lives on.

Look at us after all these years together.
Look at us after all that we’ve been through.
Look at us still leaning on each other.
If you wanna see how true love should be then just look at us. Look at us still believing in forever…
If you wanna see how true love should be then just look at us.

Sue Magruder

There will be public visitation on Saturday, June 5 from 10:00 am to noon under the tent at Davis and Normal streets on the Truman State University campus. A June 14 memorial service will be live-streamed from First United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Sue & Jack Magruder Scholarship fund at Truman State University or First United Methodist Church in Kirksville.

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Phyllis Comstock, 1931-2021

Phyllis Loraine (Martin) Comstock, 89, of Memphis, Missouri, formerly of Downing, Missouri, went home to be with her sweet Jesus and her sweetheart, Junior, on Sunday, January 17, 2021 at Scotland County Care Center in Memphis, Missouri, after contracting COVID-19.

The daughter of Minor Franklin and Beulah Ruth (Eiffert) Martin, she was born on March 3, 1931 at her grandfather Ed Martin’s home east of Sublette in Adair County, Missouri. Her sister, Bernidene LaRue (Martin) Billiet, was born one year later. She attended rural Sperry School and later rural Brushy School after the family moved to a farm south of Downing, Missouri, in Schuyler County. Phyllis attended Downing High School, graduating with the class of 1949.

Phyllis Comstock Phyllis Comstock

On July 11, 1948 in Lancaster, Missouri, she was united in marriage to Tillman Comstock, Jr. They eventually purchased a farm in Scotland County northeast of Downing, Missouri. After losing their first child, Gary Lee, at birth, Phyllis and Junior raised three children on the farm, Cheryl Ann, Craig Alan, and Candace Lea. The family were members of the Downing Christian Church where Phyllis was active in Christian Women’s Auxiliary. Phyllis was a skilled homemaker, gardening and canning much of the family’s food and sewing many of their clothes. She loved tending her flowers and reading Louis L’Amour westerns. Phyllis enjoyed her years with the Chit Chat Club and the Red Hatters in Downing, Missouri. She and Junior were members of the National Farmers Organization (NFO). They loved to square dance, host pitch card parties and family gatherings, watch birds, deer hunt, and go camping and boating with friends at the lake. They enjoyed traveling to Oklahoma, to the mountains of Colorado, and to the Iowa State Fair. They especially loved spending time with their grandchildren.

Junior and Phyllis shared a deep abiding love for one another. She loved to hear him sing “You Are My Sunshine.” After Junior was paralyzed in a farm accident in 1985, Phyllis cared for him at home until he moved to Scotland County Care Center, Memphis, Missouri, in 2005. Junior passed away in 2008, shortly before their 60th wedding anniversary. In 2015, Phyllis moved to Scotland County Care Center, Memphis, Missouri.

Survivors include her children, Cheryl Eddleman and husband Mike of Kahoka, Missouri; Craig Comstock and wife Mary of Unionville, Missouri; and Candace Magruder and husband Kerry of Norman, Oklahoma. She is Grandma Sugar and Grandma Phyllis to 14 grandchildren: Shawn Erickson and wife Angela of Festus, Missouri; Nikki Worstell and husband Tommy of Blue Springs, Missouri; Laura Ussary and husband Brad of Kansas City, Missouri; Travis Eddleman of Olathe, Kansas; Clint Eddleman of Kahoka, Missouri; Kristi Eddleman of Kansas City, Missouri; Vanessa Whitaker and partner Dr. Shane Wilson of Memphis, Missouri; Jason Comstock and wife Irene of Jackson, Missouri; Andrew McCollom and wife KayLea of rural Unionville, Missouri; Matthew McCollom and wife Andrea of Kingwood, Texas; Jonathan McCollom and fiancé Kelly Foster of Roeland Park, Kansas; Rachel Folmar and husband Stephen of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Hannah Magruder of Kirksville, Missouri; Susanna Magruder of Norman, Oklahoma; as well as to 24 great grandchildren: Quincy and Schuler Erickson; Austin and Alyssa Schwent; Thomas, Jonathon, Timothy, and Hope Worstell; Brett and Seth Ussary and Lexi DeKraai-Ussary; Meadow, Carson, Payton, Mia, Avaya, and Aven Eddleman; Victoria and Clifford Whitaker; Kaitlyn Miller and husband Traven; Athena and Iris Comstock; Hudson and Porter McCollom; and two great great grandchildren Dennis and Ivy Miller. She is also survived by brother-in-law Charles Comstock and wife Ardis of Downing, Missouri; nieces, nephews, and other family members; and many good friends and neighbors.

Phyllis is preceded in death by her parents, Minor Martin on April 30, 1999 and Ruth Martin on April 5, 2005; her husband Junior Comstock on March 19, 2008; son Gary Lee Comstock; two premature infants; sister Bernidene Billiet and husband Gene; brother-in-law Derwood Comstock and wife Dorene; and grandson-in-law Dan DeKraai.

A Celebration of Life service will be scheduled at a later date when COVID restrictions permit. Online condolences may be expressed to the family by logging on to Arrangements are under the direction of the Norman Funeral Home of Lancaster, Missouri.

Phyllis Comstock

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Winter – Windham Hill

Winter, with Mark Isham, is one of my favorite early Windham Hill releases. We practically wore out our copy on VHS. In the thick of allergy seasons and the hot months of summers for many years gone by, it was magically restorative. Now I’m so glad to find it digitized. I’m posting it here to help me get through the next few months…

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Johann Kepler: Life and Works

As Curator of the exceptional Kepler collection at the OU History of Science Collections, I’ve been invited to give talks on Kepler to various audiences, including the 2013 Okie-Tex star party at Black Mesa, Oklahoma. Much as with similar talks on Copernicus and Galileo, this is framed as if we were in the vaults of the OU History of Science Collections, turning the pages of the beautiful rare books together. The talks are an introduction to these astronomers through their works. They synthesize scholarship in the history of science, pitched for an interested public at about the same level as a lecture in a history of science survey class.

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Copernicus and the Motion of the Earth

Back in 2005, I created a planetarium show, “Copernicus and His Revolutions,” for the Cosmology and Cultures Project of the OBU Planetarium (available here).

Soon after that, as Curator of the remarkable Copernicus collection at the OU History of Science Collections, I was invited to give talks on Copernicus to various physics and astronomy programs around the country. A version of this Copernicus talk has been presented at Michigan State University (2007), Florida State University (2008), and at the Okie-Tex star party near Black Mesa (2009), among others.

Much as with similar talks on Kepler and Galileo, this talk is framed as if we were in the vaults of the Collections, turning the pages of the beautiful rare books together, in order to see what stories are evident in the works themselves. These talks introduce these astronomers through their works. They synthesize scholarship in the history of science, pitched for an interested public at about the same level as a lecture in a history of science survey class.

A PDF handout contains quotations, names of people mentioned, resources for further reading, and question prompts for discussion and reflection.

This presentation is too long to watch in one session. Take breaks between any of the 10 major sections to stretch your legs and process what has been presented. The final two sections offer questions for reflection and resources for further reading.

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My work in the library

We have a new incoming dean of libraries, arriving in May. She asked every library employee to respond to several questions. Here are my responses.

How do you contribute to University Libraries?

I tell stories that connect people with the wonderful, humane, creative, instructive and ongoing story of science and scientific culture. Libraries are not only about curating and communicating information, they are also places of meaning. Stories provide meaning. Stories invite participation, and the construction of new stories.

Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice: We had an exhibit in 2015 about Galileo. As a result, I held full-day workshops for several years for teachers in a NASA space grant program. One elementary teacher who had participated was working with a second grade student who could not yet read. The teacher shared with the girl stories about the stars. They inspired her so much that she created her own story about the stars, about a constellation she called “Hoot the Owl.” Then the girl wanted to learn to write in order to make her own book about her new constellation. “Hoot the Owl” is now my favorite constellation; you can read her story, “How the Constellation Hoot the Owl Began,” just the way she wrote it, with her family’s permission, here: Without doubt, my favorite outcome of the Galileo’s World exhibit was that it inspired this 2nd grade student in El Reno to learn to read and write.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety of people I encounter. Here is an example, expressed as a contrast between two libraries:

I remember one summer day I arrived at the front door of the —- Library in —, –. It was before 8 a.m., so that I could make best use of my one day visit. The moment the doors opened, I was invited inside and began the registration process, which was expedited for me, both because their history of science curator was a friend of mine and because I had visited the library (but not the reading room) before. Yet after I completed all the forms, answered all the questions, sat for a mug-shot, and signed a contract to credit them in the publication that would result, it was more than two hours later when I saw the inside of the reading room.

That very same summer, on a rainy day, a massive six-foot-four construction worker, perhaps in his mid-50’s with grey hair flowing down to his shoulders, a full grey beard, and a round cheerful face that would do credit to Santa Claus, walked in to the History of Science Collections. Whenever his construction site would close due to weather, he enjoyed coming in to see if we could bring him anything in Anglo Saxon. With no university education, he had taught himself to read it and translating it was his passion. He would spend all day translating whatever it was into his beloved paper notepad. Whenever I walked by our reading room and saw him there, it was as if a bard from the age of Beowulf was come back to life. Yet he would never have been allowed entrance to the —‘s reading room. Instead of an elite and exclusive private institution, we are a public research university library that welcomes all.

What UL accomplishment are you most proud of?

There are two that stand out head and shoulders above all others: open access and archives.

1. When I began working for the libraries in June 2000, image requests that came in during my first month on the job made clear to me how many creative uses images from our books could be put to by resourceful researchers, artists, and lay persons in unexpected pursuits. Since that time, it was my goal to make it a distinctive reputation of the OU History of Science Collections to serve these needs. It was a service appropriate to our home within a public research university library. It was also an advertising and promotional strategy that money couldn’t buy — to increase the visibility of a special collection with international reach located obscurely in a flyover state. That very summer, a PBS documentary on Galileo began production that would eventually list us as the first institutional credit. Fast forward to 2011, when the most important book on Copernicus to be published in the last 50 years included this sentence in the preface: “I wish to register special thanks to the University of Oklahoma History of Science Collections for its enlightened policy of making available free online use of visual material from its rich collections of rare primary sources.” At that time, we had roughly 60,000 print-quality images available for download (in contrast, our current repository does not yet support direct downloads of print-quality images). But while we had an opinion from OU Legal that agreed to direct downloads, the images were copyrighted, and the question of their continued availability always seemed precarious. Then in 2014, Rick Luce became Dean of Libraries, and the very first month on the job he visited Berlin to open a collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science to co-develop an open access academic series of primary source editions. Under Luce, OU Legal approved a blanket policy of open access applied to all of our images, including the History of Science materials in the repository.

2. The History of Science Collections have long held interesting archives, including the papers of Jens Rud Nielsen (who studied with Niels Bohr before helping to found the physics program at OU); papers related to meteorology (including the National Severe Storms Laboratory here in Norman); papers relating to geology (such as the Alexander Ospovat Collection on Abraham Werner and German mineralogy in the 18th century); and papers on technology (such as those on the development of RAM memory and other computer technology during the post-WW2 years). The problem was that these archives were not processed and therefore not available to scholars. We also stood on the sidelines when important archives went to other institutions or languished unpreserved. All that changed just about three years ago. We are now beginning processing, learning ArchiveSpace (thanks to Bailey Hoeffner!), and have launched an initiative that I believe is a strategic and mission-critical priority for us: a new History of Geology Archive. A distinguishing feature of this archive is that it offers a home for the papers of historians of geology that will benefit future researchers. This year the archive will begin to be available to the public featuring the papers of the three most prominent and distinguished historians of geology in the world (measured by lifetime achievement awards from the geological societies of America, England, France, and Russia)…. Before the pandemic, we already had two visiting scholars use the archive even as it was being processed. Once we begin to publicize it this coming fall, it will solidify our place as one of the leading centers in the world for research in the history of the earth sciences.

These seem to me truly to be the two most significant achievements for the History of Science Collections in my career.

What is your favorite UL memory?

When you walk into the Marilyn B. Ogilvie Room on the 5th floor, take a close look at the portrait that hangs on the wall. Marilyn was the second curator of the History of Science Collections (Duane Roller was the first). I was blown away when she asked me one day if I would be interested in becoming her assistant. I jumped at the chance, and with Dean Sul Lee’s offer I turned down pursuit of an opportunity to go to the university in my home town, although I am very close to family there. Marilyn was one of my chief mentors academically; she served on my dissertation committee. But more than that, I remember as a graduate student (spending inordinate time in the Collections) the moment she became curator, for that was when the atmosphere of the History of Science Collections opened up to be a safe and welcoming place for all of us, and for visitors of all kinds, including external school and community groups. I came on board in 2000, and became curator myself in 2009, but those precious years of working side-by-side with Marilyn will always mean more to me than my own tenure as curator. Marilyn is truly the “face” of the OU History of Science Collections. For in all I do in the Collections, I do out of gratitude for what Marilyn and Ken Taylor and Duane Roller and a few other mentors here at OU have meant to me. Gratitude is why I came to the Libraries, and that is why I am still here. Here is a photo of the painting and an interview I did with Marilyn:

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Gabriele Beati and Jesuit Cosmology

This long-ago presentation was the banquet address for 2005 at the 48th annual meeting of the Midwest Junto for the History of Science. A later version was published as Kerry V. Magruder, “Jesuit Science after Galileo: The Cosmology of Gabriele Beati,” Centaurus 2009, 51: 189-212.

The research about global sections mentioned in the talk was later published in two related articles: Kerry V. Magruder, “Global Visions and the Establishment of Theories of the Earth,” Centaurus 2006, 48: 234-257; and a sequel, Kerry V. Magruder, “The Idiom of a Six Day Creation and Global Depictions in Theories of the Earth,” in Martina Kölb-Ebert, ed., Geology and Religion: Historical Views of an Intense Relationship between Harmony and Hostility, Geological Society of London Special Publications, no. 310 (London: The Geological Society of London, 2009), 49-66.

While the last two decades have seen an explosion of research in Jesuit science, perhaps this talk might still be of interest. For more recent work, however, see Christopher Graney, Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo; and Mark Wadell, Jesuit Science and the End of Nature’s Secrets; among many others.

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I’ll remember this day

White House 500,000 memorial

Such a strange feeling this memorable day brings. I received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on the same day we passed the milestone of half a million deaths from Coronavirus in the United States — in only a year, more than the fatalities of World War 1, World War 2, and the war in Vietnam combined.

IMMY LabsAs for the vaccine, what an amazing experience, courtesy of the people at IMMY Labs here in Norman, the Cleveland County Health Department, Norman Regional Hospital, and quite a few OU students who partnered together to administer 10,000 doses today at the Embassy Suites just a few blocks down from the IMMY headquarters. I’ve never placed a sticker on my Mac, ever, none, and I’ve had Macs since 1986. But I did today.

As we approached the hotel, traffic was backed up for blocks in all directions. My appointment was early in the morning, and apparently lots of people had come in advance just to be sure. Police officers were everywhere — in the intersections, and then throughout the parking lots, guiding us to open spaces. The traffic jam did not last long; there was no trace of it when we left – they did their work expertly.

I stood in line outside the building until it was time to enter. Everyone was masked. There was no crowding or pushing. A worker was standing at the door, opening the door to let people inside in a measured way.

Once inside, I was met by a sequence of workers who checked my temperature with a contact-less IR beam, then directed me along a hallway, where I was accompanied by a worker, walking beside me, who confirmed my name and date of birth. And another worker who said she liked my astronomy mask that Candace made. Before I had time to stand still, the line turned left and filed into the large convention room where chairs were set up in columns. We never stopped moving. All the check-in phases were accomplished while standing up and moving in line. Those around me were respecting the 6-feet of separation.

I sat down in the chair indicated for me. Two workers with a cart moved into the space in front of me, between me and the next chair forward from me. One confirmed my name and date of birth and prepared the vaccination card that I’m to bring with me for the second dose. The other gave me the shot in my left arm. She was good at it; I could hardly feel the stick at all. As they were working simultaneously instead of in sequence, it seemed to be over in no time; they quickly moved on to the corresponding chair in the column to my right. After 15 minutes, a worker dismissed my column. We stood up to the right of our chairs, walked to the front and then exited left out of the convention room, through a different hallway, and back outside.

The experience was a splendor born of the combination of flawless logistics and human kindness in the midst of our desperate pandemic year. IMMY Labs had so many workers that there was never a question about what to do or where to go next, and no needless waiting. Equally unexpected, all those workers were kind, offering welcoming greetings, asking how we were doing.

From the time I entered the building until I left, I was actually nearly in tears just at the combination of such competence and compassion — and of the wordless affirmation, by deeds alone, of the reality of the pandemic, as they devoted themselves to its mitigation. Not to mention the improbable fact that I have survived long enough to get the first dose of the vaccine. My goodness, all the people in the chain who made that happen, from the research scientists around the world to the day workers here in this city today, I’m so thankful for them all. Bless them, dear Father! Hallelujah. If you are reading this, I pray it goes the same for you and that your turn will come soon.

500,000. This evening we cried our way through the memorial service President Biden held at the White House at sundown. Long after the moment of silence, while still watching the White House beautifully illuminated with candles, Candace proclaimed: “Congratulations, Mom, you got a president to speak at your memorial!” (Twice!) Phyllis passed from Covid on January 17th, just short of Biden’s first Covid memorial, held on the Mall on January 19, the eve of his inauguration. As with so many, her memorial service is postponed until a safer time. So, to us, both of these sunset services were for her. They acknowledged our grief and our gratitude.

Tonight, President Biden repeated a line from his brief remarks on the Mall: “To heal, we must remember.”

I will long remember this day. Enduring thanks to all of those who, directly or indirectly, have touched my life today.

IMMY Labs vaccination clinic

Story in the OU Daily

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Ash Wednesday 2021

What does God do with dust?

He breathes upon it and creates new life.

As Chrysostom said: “Dust now sits at the right hand of God.”*

This was the theme of the Ash Wednesday service last night at the First United Methodist Church in Kirksville (our family’s home church, which has been a wonderful presence of grace to us throughout the pandemic).

This year for Lent, Candace and I are reading aloud Tish Warren’s Prayer in the Night, using it to pray compline; and reading Malcolm Guite’s Word in the Wilderness, in company with a Rabbit Room reading group.


* See Gerrit Dawson, Jesus Ascended (2004).

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Fare Thee Well 2020

This is a beautiful New Year’s celebration in Scotland, so appropriately crafted for looking back on 2020 and forward to 2021.

Watch with closed captioning, in order to catch the Gaelic. Afterward, don’t miss the “Behind the scenes” video featuring interviews with those who made it happen. The poem is by Jackie Kay, poet laureate of Scotland.

Beautiful – the whole world can give thanks for this articulate lament and hopeful adaptation of the Hogmanay celebration.


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