Journeys: Marge Charlton

Jul 1, 2013, 6 a.m.

Marge Charlton

Former Racecar Driver

Age: 92

Secrets to a long life: “I go to exercise every single day. I just try and take care of myself.”

Innovations: In her more than nine decades, Marge has seen 17 different presidents and a slew of technological innovations from television to the Internet. “I don’t get shocked very easily.”

Family: Marge is a mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother. Her large family are all native Arizonans.

Racing: In addition to the Triumph TR3, her favorite racecar was an MG with a Volvo engine.

It was 1960 and Marge Charlton, then a 39-year-old grandmother, was rounding the last corner of the racetrack in Jerome. As she eased down on the brake of her Triumph TR3, suddenly her foot slid off the pedal.

“My foot slipped off the brake and onto the gas pedal,” she says. “I went zooming by the last corner and I won the race.”

It was the beginning of an unconventional 10-year racing career for the now 92-year-old great-great grandmother. This is Marge Charlton’s life story.

Born in Bisbee, Marge graduated high school when she was just 16 and earned an accounting degree. She married her husband Rex in 1941, when she was 19, and gave birth to their daughter a year later. Together she and Rex built a successful chain of six barbershops around the Valley, while Marge also worked as an accountant.

At the age of 39, on a whim, she decided to try out auto racing and was instantly hooked. She raced in events across Arizona and California, earning several trophies.

“I never crashed. One girl ran into me but I just kept going,” Marge says. “It was really fun. That’s why I liked it.”

Although some members of Marge’s family disapproved of her racing in a “men’s sport,” Rex always supported her career and often went with her to the races.

When Marge gave up racing in 1970, she and Rex took up competitive square dancing.

Then at the age of 50, Rex suffered a stroke. It took three years of rehabilitation before he eventually made a full recovery. They decided after that it was time to really start enjoying life.

“That’s when we decided if we earned a nickel we would spend a dime,” she says. “That’s when we started going on trips.”

They bought a mobile home and toured across the United States, Mexico and Canada. In addition, they took about a dozen trips to the Hawaiian islands and Europe.

Rex passed in 2004, after more than six decades of marriage. Marge, who had retired in Sun Lakes, recently moved to Tempe’s Friendship Village after she had problems with her eyesight.

When she reflects on her long life, Marge truly says she has no regrets.

“We enjoyed life. And we had a lot of friends and we had a lot of fun,” she says. “That’s what I think life is all about.”

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