Gifted poet, loving wife and mother
Margaret “Peggy” Woodruff died at home on Tuesday, February 17, shortly after her 90th birthday.
Peggy was the fifth child of Carin and Axel Peterson, both immigrants from Sweden. She was born on February 6, 1925 on the family dairy farm in New Sharon, Maine. After a disastrous fire destroyed the barn and house, the family of eight grabbed a few belongings, piled into a small truck with a covered wagon-type cover and set out for Colorado where a half-brother owned a small farm.
Peggy’s father became a farmhand and then a tenant farmer before buying his own farm. As Mr. Peterson prospered and bought more land, the family moved to several different small farming towns in eastern Colorado. On the farms, he grew sugar beets and potatoes. They finally settled in Pierce, where Peggy attended the Galeton and Pierce schools. In high school, her interest in poetry blossomed and she wrote her first poem “The Sizes of Earth,” which won her a school prize.
She continued her education after graduating with her 12 classmates from Pierce High School, earning a bachelor’s degree at Denver University. After graduation, seeking adventure, she decided to apply for a school run by the US Army to teach students the art of coding and decoding secret messages. She was accepted and was sent to the school in Seattle. In a “blacked-out” building, she was sworn to secrecy. After a few weeks of training, a new rule was passed that anyone under the age of 21 was disqualified from taking the training and she was sent back to Denver.
A short time later, she accepted a civil service job that took her to Korea for a year and then to Germany for another year. Both years, she worked as a secretary with the US Army. In Germany she married and had her only daughter, Marilyn. She returned to the United States, divorced, and enrolled in the University of Tennessee where she earned her master’s degree with a special emphasis on teaching poetry.
She taught school for one year in Tennessee and then moved to Claremont to be near her mother and sister Edith, wife of Robert James, a well-known professor at Harvey Mudd College. In 1960, she began teaching at Chino Junior High School where she was a popular and well-liked teacher. While there, she met and later married a fellow teacher, Larry Woodruff. They both moved to Chino High School where they taught for many years. In addition, Mrs. Woodruff taught at Mount San Antonio College and Upland High School. She continued her education at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, as well as at San Jose State College and Cal Poly, Pomona. She taught poetry at Upland High School until her retirement in 1981.
Through the years, she and her husband loved their teaching, but another passion was travel. Together, through the years, they visited 86 countries and all seven continents. The most memorable journey was when they traveled around the world for one year.
In her retirement, Mrs. Woodruff devoted much of her time to poetry, attending Denver University’s school for writers, Naropa. She was an active member of The Ravens, a Claremont poetry group, and loved sharing her poems with others. Over a period of years, she published an autobiography and five books of poetry, all of which may be found in the Claremont Library.
Peggy will be greatly missed by her loving husband Larry, daughter Marilyn Austin of Knoxville, Tennessee, grandson John Chiles of Seneca, South Carolina and granddaughter Carin Chiles, of Knoxville, Tennessee. She also leaves many fellow poets, friends and admirers.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date.
The sun set
letting us see
more colors than possible
The day’s plainness
turned to orange and golds
with rose and violet folds
We watched and marveled
that there could be
such an ending of a day
with blends and dignity
the colors mixed with grey
then a star appeared