Obituary: Mary Margaret Onstott Aug. 22, 1926 – April 1, 2022

MARY MARGARET ONSTOTT Aug. 22, 1926 – April 1, 2022

Mary Margaret (Peg) Onstott passed away at 95 on April 1, 2022, in Pomona, California. She lived a rich and fulfilling life overflowing with family, friends, travel, and service.

Born Aug. 22, 1926 in Quincy, Illinois, Peg experienced a somewhat itinerant childhood as her family moved several times during the Depression to find work. At one point they moved in with her aunt in New Orleans, who lived in a tiny one-bedroom house. Peg described visiting the docks there to scavenge for shrimp after the fishing boats came in. They stayed for about a year, and then returned to Illinois where her father was appointed farm advisor for Pope County.

Peg graduated early from Pope County high school and entered the University of Illinois just before turning 17. She met future husband Edward at a dance that fall, and the rest is history, as they say. They fell deeply in love and were devoted to one other for the rest of their lives. Edward was handpicked to join the Army for work on the Manhattan Project and went to Los Alamos immediately after boot camp. Later, when he and Peg married, she moved to Albuquerque since living on “The Hill” wasn’t an option until after the war. Peg reported that the early post-war days in Los Alamos were a heady time with couples sharing a dorm room furnished with two single beds shoved together and only one bathroom servicing each floor.

After his discharge from the Army, Ed and Peg moved back to Urbana, Illinois so that Ed could obtain a PhD in chemical engineering. Their two daughters, Jenifer and Peggy Sue (Suzy), were born during that time. Upon graduation, Edward was offered two positions, one in Dayton, Ohio, and one in Los Alamos.  Ed told Peg to choose, and she said without hesitation, Los Alamos. They moved again to the Atomic city in 1950 where their sons, Nicholas and Joseph were born.

Peg held strong views, sometimes unwavering in her opinions, but the strength of these beliefs provided a solid framework for her devotion to Edward and a strong foundation for her family. Aside from raising her children, She worked tirelessly for the American Cancer Society and received several awards for her contributions. She also belonged to the Women’s Club and enjoyed working on its projects. Playing bridge was a beloved recreational pastime; she joined both a women’s group and a couple’s group with Edward.  Peg had good, good friends and always offered generous hospitality that frequently included Diet Cokes.

Peg’s sense of adventure took her to Alaska, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and Canada.  Locally, she and Edward enjoyed pack horse  trips in the Pecos wilderness while visiting their cabin in Cowles. Peg’s daughter (Jenifer) reports that her 60-year-old mom propelled them over washboard dirt roads in the Jemez in her VW truck while taking a shortcut to a Navajo rug auction at Crownpoint.

She traveled to England twice with Jenifer and Merrill, cruised the Norwegian fjords with Suzy, and rode the rails across Canada with Suzy and Nick. Peg had a real affinity for bears, embarking with Joe and Thuy on three trips to Alaska and one to Churchill, Canada in search of them. She experienced a grizzly up close in Alaska and got within ten feet of a polar bear in Canada (at age 87). She and her sister-in-law, Phyllis Bruce, enjoyed cruises and took several tours, including sailing around the tip of South America.

Several years after Edward passed, Peg moved to California to be near her children and grandchildren.  She loved her life there, and particularly enjoyed the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel, and excursions to the beach and mountains, and of course being with family. Generous to a fault, she savored buying gifts that  her children and grandchildren really wanted, demanding a list from each recipient before birthdays and Christmas.

Her grandson, Quentin, noted that Peg lived a long, good life and was well-loved. She enjoyed life every day on her own terms and sometimes didn’t suffer fools gladly, but generosity and kindness usually carried the day.

After a memorial service in Claremont, California, Peg was buried in Guaje Pines Cemetery in Los Alamos with her beloved husband, Edward. Survivors include her children, Jenifer (Merrill Ring), Suzy, Nick, and Joe (Thuy), five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, sister-in-law Phyllis Bruce of LeRoy, Illinois, as well as many nieces and nephews. Kindly consider donating to VNA Hospice of Southern California, 2151 E. Convention Center Way, Suite 100, Ontario, CA 91764, or The American Cancer Society.

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