Obituary: Margaret Taliaferro, 1926-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Margaret Taliaferro, 1926-2020

Advocate for environmental and social causes wanted to leave the world a better place

Published October 5, 2020 at 6:00 a.m.
Updated October 29, 2020 at 3:14 p.m.

Peggy Taliaferro - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Peggy Taliaferro

On October 1, 2020, at the age of 93, at the peak of fall foliage and in the fullness of the harvest moon, Margaret C. "Peggy" Taliaferro died peacefully in Burlington, Vt. Viewing the end of her life as her “last great adventure,” Peggy welcomed her children to bring her to Vermont from her home of 15 years at Broadmead, a residential care community in Cockeysville, Md.

Peggy had a rich life, full of close friends, travel, environmental and social causes, nonprofit boards, churches, and her gardens, but nothing meant more to her than her family. She is survived by her four children and their partners/spouses: Meg Tipper (John) of Burlington, Vt.; Kendal Tipper (Janet) of Bonita Springs, Fla.; Bill Tipper (Liz) of Costa Rica; and Charlie Tipper (Mima) of Waitsfield and South Hero, Vt.; as well as six grandchildren: Stephen Feiss (Jacqueline), Ben Tipper, Jack Tipper, Mike Tipper, William Tipper and Marley Tipper, with one, Maggie Feiss, predeceased; and two great-grandchildren: Olivia and Zoë Feiss.

Peggy was married twice — in her words, “blessed with two wonderful husbands” — first to Albert Tipper, who died in 1974 and was the father of her children, then to Austin Taliaferro, who died in 1988, father of her four dear stepdaughters. Peggy never remarried, but she had a beloved companion in Don Smyth, who died in 2019.

Peggy enjoyed lifelong friendships, from childhood friends and extended family members to her schoolmates from Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore (class of 1945). Though she lived a long life and survived many people whom she was close to, she continued to develop new and important relationships, from her church community to the members of her “cluster” and the wider circle of staff and residents at Broadmead. She loved to arrange flowers for people in Broadmead’s hospital care and to brighten the common living areas, and she always had time for a smile and a kind word to anyone she passed along her way.

Peggy delighted in decades of travel and adventures, including trips with her family to the Galapagos Islands, French Alps, Alaska and Costa Rica. She was a passionate birder and loved marking off “first sightings” in her bird books. She cherished her summer family reunions at "Paupac" in Greentown, Pa. Fiercely competitive, she loved games, especially tennis, bridge and a family favorite called fantan.

Peggy wanted to leave the world a better place. After graduating from Sweet Briar College in 1949 with a degree in sociology, she spent a postgraduate year studying the Swedish social welfare system at the University of Stockholm. She returned to Baltimore to work for the Children’s Aid Society of Baltimore County and serve as a director of the Woodbourne Residential Treatment Center. Over the years, she served on many boards and was an active volunteer, supporting mission-driven organizations generously with her time, talent and treasure.

Peggy’s commitment to being a good citizen lasted a lifetime. In her later years, when her alarm went off in the morning, it was tuned to NPR news; she was always eager to engage in lively discussion of current events. A lover of nature and the outdoors all her life, Peggy’s greatest activism was as an advocate for the environment.

All Peggy’s life, she demonstrated to her family and friends how to see and appreciate the beauty and wonder of the natural world. This was something her children loved to tease her about when they were young but then came to treasure. And now they watch themselves passing this very trait along to their own children and grandchildren.

When asked at a family-reunion roundtable what she considered most important in one’s approach to life, she replied, “Having an open mind.” Peggy spent her life affirming the worth and dignity of all people through her work and through her genuine interest in and kindness toward everyone.

Another cause Peggy strongly supported was death with dignity. She and other residents at Broadmead organized speakers, information sessions and support groups for Compassion & Choices. Peggy’s children feel immense pride and stand in awe of their mother’s steadfast commitment to this principle, and they express their sincere gratitude to Dr. Zail Berry and the University of Vermont Health Network Hospice. Gifts in Peggy’s memory may be made to Compassion & Choices at

Due to COVID-19, there will be no plans for a memorial service until a later date.

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