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Margo and George Earley

Margo and George Earley at home with Mt. Hood in the background.

A lifelong member, volunteer and generous donor to The Wilderness Society, Margo Earley made an indelible impact on the conservation community. Though she passed away in 2021, her legacy continues to inspire us today.

Growing up on the eastern seaboard, Margo enjoyed traveling, often attending Governing Council meetings around the country with her father, Ernest S. Griffith, who was Treasurer of The Wilderness Society for 30 years. Hiking with some of the giants of the early conservation movement, her passion for wilderness was born.

Margo and George Earley

Margo and George Earley with Thunder.

After attending Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., Margo graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a zoology major and a music minor. Four months later, she married George Earley, who would become her husband of 69 years. Eventually, the couple settled in Bloomfield, Connecticut to raise four children—David, Steve, Kate and Christine. Busy though she was in her new roles as a wife and mother, her love for the outdoors only strengthened.

For the next three decades, Margo organized summer camping and backpacking trips for her family, initially in the Appalachians and Adirondack Mountains, then further afield in the Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas and the Northwest Cascades, and later to Canada, Alaska and the European Alps. Gaining new skills and confidence with each excursion, she became a seasoned backpacker, who was notably adept with an ice-axe. It was no surprise, then, that at age 50 she completed the 211-mile John Muir Trail. Several years later, seeking “a different challenge,” she completed a gruelling 11-day Outward Bound sailing course off the coast of Maine.

Margo Earley

Margo Earley celebrates summiting Mount Rainier.

At home, Margo was known for being a terrific cook and a gracious host to anyone who happened to walk through the door, as well as a gifted writer with a poetic turn of phrase—and some poetic license! Her annual Christmas letters and family emails brought entertainment and joy. Always finding time to do more, she also sang in the church choir—including a number of years as a paid soloist—served on school parent committees, volunteered at an inner-city hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, performed in a local theatre and operatic group, and began a lifetime commitment as a blood donor.

But her heart was always in the West near the great open spaces she had come to cherish in her travels. In 1989, she and George packed up and moved to Oregon to build a new home and a new life on the lower slopes of Mount Hood. Together, they raised a succession of beloved Alaskan Malamutes and hosted numerous events, including family gatherings, the annual winter retreat of the Lincoln High School Constitution class, community meetings and Wilderness First Aid and CPR training courses.

Margo Earley

Margo Earley hiking Goat Rock and Mount Adams Wilderness.

Margo continued to pursue opportunities to introduce others to wild places. Over many summers, she volunteered on trail maintenance crews, and, for more than 15 years, she led numerous backpacking trips in the Northwest for the Sierra Club. Later, she even became a First Aid Shepherd on local hikes up and down the Columbia Gorge. She loved exploring the mountain ranges of the Northwest and climbed many peaks, summiting Mount Rainier once and Mount Hood three times. In addition, she hiked more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Margo Earley

Margo Earley with Tamarack.

Not surprisingly, Margo also became a fierce public lands advocate during this time. As an advisor to The Wilderness Society, she supported the organization’s voice from the grassroots level to congressional offices in Washington, D.C. In addition, she served for 15 years on the Board of the Hood River Valley Residents Committee, a community organization known today as THRIVE, which advocates for sustainable land use in the Hood River region.

Over the course of a lifetime of wilderness experience, Margo developed not only an encyclopaedic knowledge of trails hiked and mountain ranges visited, but also a commitment to the communities that rely on these lands. On a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp 20 years ago, Margo was inspired from conversations with her guide to fund health care at a Nepalese village where none had existed, so that today there is a year-round medical clinic serving thousands of people.

Margo Earley

River crossing with Margo Earley, et al on a backpacking trip.

In her commitment to wild places, Margo was an exceptional role model. Her passion for the outdoors—be it the glacial moraine, the Indian paintbrush, the bear, the elk, the creek or the mountain peak—was boundless and unwavering, and an inspiration to family and friends and the broader conservation community. She knew the importance of personal renewal gained from time in the wilderness, but equally she knew the importance of giving back, and of working to preserve wild places for future generations, human and animal.

Like Margo, The Wilderness Society envisions a future where people and wild nature flourish together, meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing planet. We are grateful to Margo Earley and her family, past and present, for a legacy of Wilderness advocacy that has done so much to protect America’s wild places.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The Wilderness Society a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to The Wilderness Society, a nonprofit corporation currently located at 1801 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006, or its successor thereto, ______________ [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to The Wilderness Society or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to The Wilderness Society as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to The Wilderness Society as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and The Wilderness Society where you agree to make a gift to The Wilderness Society and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.