Former West Lafayette Mayor Sonya Margerum died Sunday from kidney disease, according to her obituary.
Margerum was 89 and was the city’s first female mayor. She was elected in 1979 and went on to become the longest-serving mayor of West Lafayette, serving six terms, from 1980 to 2003.
Margerum went to St. Olaf College and graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry in 1952, according to her obituary. Afterward, she was hired by Iowa State University to work at the Atomic Energy Commission's Ames Lab at the end of the Manhattan Project.
She met Dale Margerum, her late husband who retired as a Purdue professor, at Ames Labs, and the two moved to West Lafayette, where Sonya Margerum became active in groups such as the League of Women Voters and the Democratic Party.
While Margerum was mayor, the city constructed Wabash Landing and was the first in Indiana to implement a curbside recycling program in 1990, according to previous Exponent reporting. Then-Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan designed Purdue Research Park as Indiana's first certified technology park in 2003.
Current West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said Margerum played an important role in shaping West Lafayette.
“Sonya was instrumental in bringing in some of the initial growth and infrastructure that made West Lafayette what it is today,” Dennis said.
During her six terms, Dennis said, she worked to build relationships within and outside West Lafayette.
“She was very supportive of our schools, very supportive of the relationship between the city and Purdue University,” he said.
Dennis said she came to represent the city as more than just its mayor.
“She was really known as sort of the soul of the city,” he said. “She was always approachable. She was always interested in you as an individual.”
Dale Margerum died in August. Margerum was living at the University Place senior living community when she died.
A church service will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 at Our Savior Lutheran Church, according to Margerum's obituary. The general public can attend a drop-in remembrance 2-6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the temporary West Lafayette City Hall at Happy Holllow School.