Margaret Louise McMillan Smith (Peggy to all who knew her) was born in Goldsboro, N.C., on Oct. 13, 1918, in the middle of the "Spanish" flu outbreak. She died Saturday, June 28, 2014, at Good Samaritan Care Center in Idaho Falls at the age of 95.
Peggy lived her life as an eternal and uncompromising optimist, which may well account for her longevity! She was a "people" person, loving the interaction with friends and the members of her extended family, with whom she was extremely close — nor were strangers exempt from her charms!
From her earliest years, her life revolved around music, mainly the making of music, and family. Her mother was a fine pianist and singer, who played Mozart and boogie-woogie equally well (she played for the silent films in Goldsboro when she was a young woman). Peggy was an equally fine pianist whose interests were chiefly classical and sacred music. She majored in piano performance at Flora MacDonald College in North Carolina, and remained deeply involved in music until her move to Idaho Falls in 2002. Even then, with arthritis curling her fingers and back, she continued her love of music by playing the piano for Fairwinds' Protestant church services every Sunday…though that fell by the wayside after she fell asleep at the piano one Sunday. She claimed the minister's sermon was boring!
As a child and young woman, she sang with her mother and three brothers at church and social functions. Peggy's father was an invalid, whom she never saw out of bed, as he was totally crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. He too sang, in a lovely baritone, so the family would gather around his bed for song fests. Her father died when she was 12, and her mother raised the four children, continuing in the joy and love already firmly established in the household.
Peggy often said she grew up amid great love and demonstrated affection and kindness, and that her life was forever blessed for that—as were the lives of subsequent generations who benefited from that original seed.
Peggy married Eugene Whitmel Smith in 1942, and moved to his ancestral home on the Cape Fear River outside Dunn, N.C. They had two children, Margaret Louise and Eugene Whitmel. She was a loving wife (we have that straight from our Dad), friend, mother, daughter, grandmother and aunt. Peggy and Gene created a warm, welcoming home, which attracted a bevy of friends and nieces and nephews, who remember them both with much love.
Her husband Gene couldn't carry a tune if you paid him, but he was the greatest appreciator of classical music you could ever meet. Perfect combination! After their marriage, Peggy immediately sprang into action in the local Presbyterian Church, serving as its music director for over 30 years. She also started a singing group called "The Giggle Girls." And they did NOT sing sacred music! Peggy had a—well, we won't say profane—but at least a devilish streak!
Peggy remained intellectually curious to the end, reading history and geology as though she were preparing for an exam. She stayed totally immersed in the ebb and flow of politics, always ready for a good exchange with friends and relatives. As a lifelong Democrat from the American southeast, she was thrilled to have had the opportunity to vote for the country's first African American president, not once, but twice.
Peggy cannot have departed this life with many regrets…except, as she recently shared with her daughter, of not being able to "hang around and see what happens," in family, politics, society and the changes in the earth. She lived life to the fullest, and with enthusiasm. All who met her are better for having had her in their lives.
The family thanks the staff at Good Samaritan Care Center for their expert, kind care of Peggy for the last three years. She always said that she never heard a scolding, careless, or unkind word from anyone there and that kindness was the rule of the day—every day. At the end of her life, Hospice of Eastern Idaho spread its caring wings over her daily life, so she was doubly blessed with the care from both groups.
Peggy was preceded in death by her treasured husband, Gene (in 1998); her father Robert Hunter McMillan; her beloved mother, Louise Outlaw McMillan; her brothers, Robert Hunter McMillan, James Bryan McMillan and (in action in the Pacific theatre in World War II) Richard Greyard McMillan.
She leaves behind a diverse and wonderful extended family: daughter, Louise Smith Nelson (partner Anne Voilleque); son Eugene W. (Sherry) Smith; grandchildren, Eugene W. (Beth) Smith IV, Sherry S. (Brian) Ledford and Ashley S. Nelson; four great-grandchildren, Jesyka Hope Smith, Adam Nelson Solomon, Sean Thomas Solomon and Brendan Ledford. Her nieces and nephews have been her love and light and have stood by her to the end: Robert Hunter (Cheryl) McMillan, Leta Glenn McMillan (Grady) Blackwelder, Clyde T. McMillan (Jack) Strickling, James B. McMillan, Marjorie McMillan (Tim) Rodell, Mary Cox (Charles) Overbey, Clara Cox (Maurice) Todd, Mary Allred Crews (partner Tommy), Joanna Allred (Sandy) McKethan and Phyllis Smith (widow of Sidney D. Smith).
We all salute a life well and deeply lived! We'll miss you!
Funeral services will take place in North Carolina. Local arrangements are under the direction of Buck-Miller-Hann Funeral Home, 825 E. 17th St. in Idaho Falls.
Memorial gifts may be made to Good Samaritan Society, 840 E. Elva St., Idaho Falls, ID 83401; or Hospice of Eastern Idaho, 1810 Moran St., Idaho Falls, ID 83401.
Condolences may be sent to the family online at www.buckmillerhann.com.