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Margaret Lawler, taught seniors how to line dance, dies at 89

Margaret Lawler in 2007 instructing seniors and students

Margaret Lawler in 2007 instructing seniors and students from Copiague Middle School in line dancing at the Tanner Park Senior Center. Credit: Patrick Oehler

Margaret Lawler, a longtime North Lindenhurst resident who taught countless seniors how to line dance in classes at Tanner Park Senior Center, died Feb. 12 of a stroke in Huntington. She was 89.

Those who knew her said Lawler was as devoted to her regular Wednesday morning classes at the Copiague facility as she was to the seven children she raised in her home on Sherbrook Road, where she lived for nearly 70 years.

“She ran this class forever, and she taught a lot of people,” said Eileen Alley of Lindenhurst, who took Lawler’s class and now teaches it herself. “She was a real pillar of the community.”

Lawler was born Margaret Moss in Brooklyn in 1929, one of seven children in a family crammed into in a modest apartment in Bay Ridge.

“We had to make our own heat … with an iron stove, the big old square ones,” said her sister, Dawn Davidson, of Titusville, Florida. “We used to put coal in them.”

Patricia Latawiec, Lawler’s daughter, said her mother’s family “didn’t have much. I remember her telling me they used to mix water with ketchup to make spaghetti” sauce, said Latawiec, of Huntington.

Lawler married John Lawler, a returning World War II veteran, in 1946. She was 17.

“She probably was married as soon as she got out of high school,” Latawiec said.

John Lawler worked first as a clerk, then a manager, for Bohack grocery stores. In 1951, the young family left Brooklyn for a small home in North Lindenhurst.

“This neighborhood was just being built at that time,” Latawiec said of the house where she and her six siblings were raised. “There weren’t even fences between the yards.”

“The three girls, we were in the tiny little bedroom on the first floor,” Latawiec said. “And then as a brother moved out we were entitled to move upstairs.”

Once her children were grown, Lawler received a real estate license and began working in the field, then took a customer service position in a Citibank office in Melville.

After she retired and her husband’s death in 1990, Lawler’s children encouraged her to begin attending the Tanner Park Senior Center. At first reluctant, Lawler soon became a fixture at the facility, where she became vice president and taught line dancing.

Her classes were a hit, prompting senior centers in the Town of Oyster Bay to hire her to teach there as well. Lawler and others in her classes began performing in nursing homes throughout central Long Island, dancing to the music of Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, Alley said.

Lawler was buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Pinelawn on Feb. 16. Her answering machine still asks callers to “Please leave a message and keep on dancing,” Latawiec said.

She is survived by Davidson and Latawiec; sons John Lawler of Los Angeles, Thomas Lawler of Norman, Oklahoma, Edward Lawler of West Babylon, and William Lawler of Willow Spring, North Carolina; daughters Margaret Luciani of Ocean Pines, Maryland, and Linda Ferris of Coram; 19 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren.

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