Margaret "Peggie" Hillegass (May), died peacefully at home on Sunday, April 28. A mother of three boys, she leaves behind her husband, Ronald Carl Hillegass, her two sons, Ronald “Carl” Hillegass, Jr. of Stonington, CT (married to Stella Wingo and grandchildren Ronald “Hopper” Carl, III, Sarah Margaret “Maggie” and George Chadwick) and Michael George Hillegass of Washington, DC (married to Carrie Babbington and granddaughters Hope Elizabeth, Carolyn May “Kiki” and Vela “Ella” Grace). She was preceded in death by her son Kent Field Hillegass (father of Carter Anderson and Kent Field, Jr. “Jake”) and her brother Theodore “Teddy” May.
Born in the Bronx in New York City on June 4, 1941, to Sarah Hawthorne May and Theodore Merritt May, Peggie moved to Valley Cottage near Nyack, New York at the age of nine. She enjoyed spending her summers at Mayfield, their family farm in Newberg, NY, and at Lake Pleasant in Speculator, NY in the Adirondack mountains.
Possessing an early love of horses, she enjoyed reading Black Beauty novels and riding in Central Park. She attended Nyack High School, where she starred on the basketball team and was nicknamed “The Windmill.” Peggie matriculated to Wells College in Aurora, NY, where she developed her interests in art and music, becoming a talented guitarist.
After her freshman year in college, she worked in Chatham, MA where she met her future husband, Ronald. They were subsequently engaged her senior year and married on June 16,
1963 in Valley Cottage, only a few weeks after being named Wells’ May Queen.
Peggie supported Ron as a first grade teacher while he was in medical school in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. After his internship at Penn, the couple moved to Landstuhl, Germany with the Army. While there, she taught first and second grade and served on several service committees. She also traveled and skied extensively. Her first son “Carl” was born in Landstuhl.
Peggie and Ron moved to Pittsburgh in 1968 where her next two sons, Kent and Michael, were born. She entertained friends and children by playing the guitar and was active in the art community, winning numerous prizes for her talent.
In 1973, Peggie and her family moved to Barrington, RI, where she would make a warm and loving home for the rest of her life.
In Barrington, Peggie became active in St. John’s Episcopal Church, where she served as a co-founder of the Children’s Chapel. She was a Den Mother for her sons’ Cub Scout troup, and served as a docent at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum.
Peggie was elected to Barrington Town Council and was selected to run for Secretary of State, but she declined due to her desire to be a full-time mother. She was known by her children and their friends as “Marshmallow Mom” for her soft disposition.
Peggie became very active in the sailing community at the Barrington Yacht Club. She was a co-owner of a ships chandlery, The Boat Barn, and was active on the Race Committee. She maintained her family’s Cal 34 sailboat, Tigress . Peggie was an avid windsurfer and she spent a great deal of time with the boys and their friends water skiing off of “ski beach” in the Barrington River. Summers were spent sailing through the islands of southeastern New England.
In 1978, Peggie and Ron bought a ski house in Waterville Valley, NH, and after that most winter weekends were spent skiing and socializing in Waterville Valley. All three boys attended Holderness School in Plymouth, NH, where she was able to see them on weekends. There, Peggie was known for socializing with friends, being a great joke teller and cooking for guests ranging from 2 to 50. She loved her Crock Pot. As life went on, Peggie’s grandchildren quickly grew to love the house in Waterville thanks to her ability to make it a loving home. When her boys left for college, Peggie pursued multiple interests. One of her major interests was Dressage riding; especially with her horse Tucker.
Peggie was an excellent organizer and served as head of the Woman’s Board of the Eastern Orthopedic Association for its meeting in Rome, Italy in 1995 for 500 doctors and their wives.
Ron retired from orthopedics in 1996. Since then Peggie and Ron have traveled extensively around the world and, as she said, visiting every place they wanted to go, including visiting some places three or four times. Trips included ones to Machu Picchu, China, India, Russia, a safari in Africa and the Mid-East.
Peggie particularly enjoyed the outdoor life, including camping, canoeing and hiking.
Trekking was perhaps her favorite. Treks included the Haute Route in Switzerland, Torres de Paine Circuit in Chile, Fitz Roy in Argentina and the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.
Peggie continued to play tennis on Tuesdays and Thursdays, attended art classes at the Providence Art Club on Wednesdays and skied from Friday through Monday for almost the past 20 years. Peggie also loved to garden, maintaining beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. She was involved in the Barrington Garden Club, the Handicraft Club, Rhode Island Country Club and Barrington Yacht Club. Peggie will be remembered not only as a Renaissance Person but, more importantly, as a wonderful friend, grandmother, mother and wife.
A funeral service will be held Saturday May 11th at 3:00 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 119 County Road, Barrington, Rhode Island. Calling Hours will be held on Friday May 10 from 4:00-7:00 PM in Smith-Mason Funeral Home, 398 Willett Avenue, Riverside, RI 02915. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Peggie’s name to Rhode Island SPCA, 186 Amaral Street, Riverside, RI..
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