Helen "Peggy" Cahill beloved and admired by all for her generous spirit, her phenomenal memory of family milestones, and her intellectual curiosity, Helen Kennedy Cahill, 96, passed away peacefully in her home in San Rafael on January 14, 2013.
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Peggy was a lifelong traveler, student, and devotee of California history, art and literature. She loved the outdoors and helped introduce her children and grandchildren to the joy of the Sierra Nevada wilderness. She served as matriarch of both the Cahill and Kennedy families of Marin and San Francisco. She relished visits and gatherings with all of her family, including her sister, her four children, 12 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, 16 nieces and nephews, her numerous cousins, and all of their families. She will be sorely missed by all.
Peggy was devoted to her husband of 58 years, John E. Cahill, Sr., who passed away in 2000. He was the longtime President of Cahill Construction, Inc., of San Francisco, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Peggy was the oldest of four sisters and John was the oldest of four brothers, all of whom served as their only wedding attendants. The photo of their 1942 wedding party is a favorite keepsake of both families.
Peggy was proud to be a fourth-generation Californian and the great-granddaughter of Captain Charles M. Weber, who founded the City of Stockton in 1849. Capt. Weber traveled to California in 1841 as a member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, which crossed the Sierras on foot near Sonora Pass. He later married Helen Murphy, who arrived with the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party in 1844, the first group of pioneers to arrive in California without abandoning all of their wagons.
Peggy was born in Stockton on November 6, 1916, to Gerald Driscoll Kennedy and Helen Weber Kennedy. Her family maintained homes in both San Francisco and Stockton until the death of her mother in 1983. Peggy attended Katherine Delmar Burke School and then U.C. Berkeley, where she graduated in 1938 with a degree in English. While at Berkeley, she wrote for the Daily Californian and was elected to the Prytanean Honor Society as well as Torch and Shield. Prior to her marriage, Peggy taught high school English, Journalism and Drama.
While raising their family, both Peggy and John were very active volunteers with numerous service and religious organizations. They were also longtime members of the Sierra Club and took their family on many backcountry trips in California and the West. Throughout her life, Peggy had a great love for the Sierras and especially for the area surrounding Pinecrest Lake above Sonora. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of California wildflowers and, when at home in Marin, was an avid and knowledgeable gardener.
At various times, Peggy was a board member or trustee of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (where she was the first woman trustee), the Council of the Friends of the Bancroft Library (where she also served on the Executive Committee), the Fort Point Museum Association, and the Northern California Committee on Fulbright Scholarships.
Peggy's many other civic interests included the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), Marin Community Clinics, Dominican University, St. Dominic's Church, and San Domenico School. She was particularly interested in research on Parkinson's disease and was instrumental in the establishment of endowed chairs and fellowships studying Parkinson's at Stanford Medical School and at the UCSF Center for Neurosciences.
Peggy is survived by her sister, Geraldine Cole; her children and their spouses: John E. Cahill, Jr., and Patricia Cahill, Jerry Cahill and Kathy King, Ann Cahill Fidanque and David Fidanque, and Dr. Edward Cahill and Dr. Carol Cahill; her grandchildren: Maia Cahill, Colin Cahill, Kathryn Cahill Thompson, Brandon Fidanque, Dr. Kimberly Cahill Peterson, Spencer Cahill, Matthew Fidanque, Dr. Kevin Cahill, Carolyn Cahill, Christopher Cahill, Edward ill and Ken Cahill; and many beloved nieces and nephews. Two sisters, Katherine Kennedy Cookson and Moira Kennedy Holden predeceased Peggy.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to:
* The Friends of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720-6000;
* Marin Community Clinics, 1177 E. Francisco Blvd, Suite B, San Rafael, CA, 94901; or
* St. Dominic's Catholic Church, 2390 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA, 94115.
A celebration of Peggy Cahill's life will be held at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in San Francisco on Friday, February 1 at 12:30 p.m.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jan. 20 to Jan. 28, 2013