Margaret “Peggy” Tucker Thompson passed away peacefully on October 9, 2018 at her home in White Horse Village, surrounded by family. She was 88 years old.
Peggy had an intellectual curiosity that drove her to pursue topics of interest or importance to her by reading, questioning and exploring — and she challenged her family to do the same. Peggy had a strong sense of social responsibility and made sure that her children, from an early age, had a keen awareness of disadvantaged people amongst us. She was a role model for compassionate activism, spiritual grace, devoted friendship, and the power of gratitude and joy.
Peggy was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., on April 30, 1930 to civil engineer Newton Earl Tucker and housewife and accomplished artist Susan Scott Tucker. She had a happy childhood in Pittsburgh with her sister Anne, attending the Ellis School and graduating in 1951 from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) where she majored in English.
Following college, she worked briefly in advertising before joining the staff of WQED, the nation’s first community-supported television station, where she met and became lifelong friends with Fred Rogers. There, she helped launch “The Children’s Corner,” a local educational show that served as a precursor to the nationally beloved “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” and for which Peggy served as producer, puppeteer, Girl Friday and occasional on-screen character “Miss Peggy” for the show.
Peggy was introduced to Peter Thompson by his sister, Ann, and they married in 1954. Upon completion of Pete’s postdoctoral work at Pitt, he accepted a position in the Chemistry Department of Swarthmore College. They moved to Swarthmore in 1958, where they lived for almost five decades and raised four children. Peggy became a keystone member of the Swarthmore community. Over the years, she immersed herself in the life of the college in professional roles — as Assistant Director of Theater, Associate Director of Financial Aid, and on staff at the college bookstore — and as an enthusiastic volunteer.
Always interested in the educational and emotional needs of children, in 1972 she obtained a Masters in Social Service from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work, and became a social worker for Delaware County, where she counseled families and worked with home daycare providers. In 1982 she became Director of Title XX Family Day Care for the County, where she led the department in providing high quality daycare to low-income families.
Peggy was always passionate about music, and she often found opportunities to learn and build community through her musical pursuits. She loved to sing, and was a member of the Swarthmore College chorus, the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church choir, and most recently the White Horse Village chorus. She played the piano, hammered dulcimer, ukulele, and a myriad of drums, bells, gongs, whistles, etc., that she built with her grandchildren over the years. She was a founding member of Swarthmore’s Gamelan Semara Santi, a traditional Indonesian orchestral ensemble.
Peggy’s devotion to music and children’s education led to her involvement in many efforts to help the children of Chester, Pa., break the cycle of poverty through art, music, and education. She helped establish the Chester Children’s Chorus, a learning-through-music choral program for children and teens, and remained fully committed to the end. Out of CCC came the Chester Charter School of the Arts (CCSA), and both Peggy and Pete have participated since its inception. Since moving to White Horse Village in 2006, they have worked to create closer ties between the CCSA and WHV residents. When the new facility for CCSA opened in 2016 the science lab was named after Pete and Peggy in tribute to their many contributions. A fundraiser currently underway in Peggy’s honor has raised over $4,000 to buy children’s books for CCSA classrooms.
More than anything, Peggy was devoted to her family. She introduced her children, and later her grandchildren, to all forms of art, teaching them to be both prolific producers and consumers. She was an avid reader and loved nature, camping and traveling, passions she passed on. An adventurer at heart, she and Pete traveled extensively through Europe, Peru, China, India, and the U.S.A. and even lived and camped throughout England and Western Europe during one of Pete’s sabbatical leaves, with four children under the age of 10 in tow. In 1992, they purchased a summer cottage on Newboro Lake in Ontario, Canada, where they spent many happy summers hosting their children, grandchildren, and friends — and where Peggy often relived her glory days as a girl scout camp counselor, the occupation where her love of children really all began.
Peggy is survived by her husband of 64 years, Pete; her sister Anne Nichols (Jim); her children Scott Thompson (Jill), Sue Thompson (Mark), Barbara Amann (Steve), and Joe Thompson; eight grandchildren, Katie, Sarah, Peter, Alex, Daniel, Ben, Jenny and Ellie; many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews; and her cherished cat, Morris. She was beloved by her family and friends, and will be greatly missed.
Peggy was a member of the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church for many years. A memorial service in remembrance of her life will be held at the church, 727 Harvard Avenue, on Monday, October 22, at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Chester Children’s Chorus or the Chester Fund for Education and the Arts in support of CCSA.