On July 23, 2020, Margaret "Peggy" Mae Rhodes, nee: Smith, 100 years old passed away from complications of a stroke in December 2016. She is the last of 11 children of Frank and Elizabeth Smith of Gibbstown, NJ. She is preceded in death by her husband, William A. Rhodes, sisters, Ida Mae, Dorothy, Ethel, Marian and Lillian, and brothers George, Harry, Thomas, Frank and Arthur. She is survived by her daughter Sherry Rhodes of Ellicott City, MD. Also, survived by many nieces and nephews, Beverly and husband George, Gail, Gloria husband Bill, Catherine, Karen and husband Fred, Thomas and wife Lynn, Betty, Joanne, and Joseph and wife Barbara, all of New Jersey.
Peggy was very spunky and adventuresome. When she was a teen she and her other sisters worked cleaning houses in their little town. It must have gotten in their blood, because they all had spotless houses. Mom also worked in the 5&10, and at DuPont. This helped contribute to the family during the Great Depression. Mom always said they were poor, but happy. Her father always had a job during the depression, as Gibbstown was a DuPont company town, but feeding 11 children took its toll. She said they had a running tab with the local grocer, and would pay when they could, but they always paid. Mom always laughed at the dress that her mom got her from Welfare one day. She said it was brown with blue stars, and she hated to wear it, but did anyway. There were baseball games on the field behind their house, and her brother Georgie made a miniature golf course on the side of their house. There was a player piano in the dining room, and many times they would roll up the rug, bring in a -small band and have a party. Most of the days were happy, but unfortunately there were tragedies too. Her younger brother Frankie died at an early age. Her brother Arthur (Jalcie) was killed on the beaches of Normandy, and her other brother Tommy was a navigator and flew many missions over Germany, but did survive the war, and retired a Colonel in the Air Force. She always told me that when Tommy came home they would roll up the rug in the dining room, hire a band, and invite all the neighbors to celebrate. She left Gibbstown after graduating from high school at the age of 18, and went to Philadelphia to live with relatives. She was looking for a more adventuresome and better life. She worked in the defense plants in Philly, and met my dad there. He said she was the best looking girl in the plant. All the guys were after her to go out, but dad won out. They married in 1942, and I came along in 1943. They lived with dad's grandparents and parents in a large home in West Philly. Four generations in one house. Sometimes that was a little too much. My dad was drafted in 1944, and went off to war, or at least to Florida, Texas and Louisiana in 1944. He was in the Army Air Corp, and did not like that life at all. He was so upset about leaving mom and me, that mom finally packed up and headed to Louisiana to stay with him until he was discharged in 1945. I stayed with my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents in Philly. She said it was an interesting trip, as it was a troop train, and she was one of only a few women on board.
After the war ended they settled in an apartment in southwest Philly. Everyone was moving in after the war. They were nice apartments, but now I guess you would call them public housing. They had many good friends and good times there. My dad worked for Brills were he helped make streetcars, buses, etc. Mom joined a pinochle club, a women's club, and daddy bowled and played softball. I went to elementary school, and came home every day on the school bus for lunch. There was always hot soup, a grilled cheese or tuna sandwich to greet me, and of course, Jell-O. Mom and I would watch two soaps, Search for Tomorrow, and Love of Life. Then I went back to school. Dad came home at 5 p.m. to a hot meal every day. He eventually got a good job with Del Monte foods, they saved enough money and moved to Springfield, a suburb of Philly. Mom loved playing pinochle, and belonged to two pinochle clubs, the Springfield Women's Club, a bowling league, and Coventry Methodist Church where she volunteered at church suppers and other events. She was also very active in many events at my high school, and was a chaperone for my Girl Scout troop when we would go on trips. I grew up in an era when very few mothers worked, and there was always "cookies and milk" available when I came home from school. She and dad were always very involved in anything I did, which made for a pleasant childhood for me. Both she and dad were very even tempered, and I don't remember them ever having any arguments. Disagreements maybe, but no arguments. I grew up in a very pleasant house.
Mom always enjoyed getting together with her family every Sunday where they would meet in the house where she grew up in Gibbstown. I would spend Saturday with my dad's mom in Philly, but when Sunday came it was over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Jersey. All the aunts, uncles and cousins were there running in and out of the house. Mom's main hobbies were her house, which always sparkled, and reading. She was always up on current events and belonged to a book club. Both dad and mom were excellent cooks. Mom's specialty was Navy bean soup. It was her father's recipe. Most people that tasted it said she should bottle and sell it. Mom's stews and ham and cabbage were equally delicious, and were enjoyed by all.
In 1962 dad got a good promotion with Del Monte and moved to Maiyland. Mom missed her family, but fortunately they were only 100 miles away, and we, for the first couple of years, were in Jersey or Philly every weekend. As they got more involved with activities in Maryland the trips slacked off to once a month, but were always looked forward to. Dad was a Mason, and became a Shriner in Maryland. He was very active in the Shrine, and you would find mom and dad almost every Saturday night dancing at Boumi Temple. They were excellent dancers, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. That was one gene that missed me, as I cannot dance at all. Mom had about 25 evening gowns, and looked like a princess alongside my dad in his tux. My dad always got razzed because neither my mom nor him drank or smoked. He always held the door for mom, and got up from the table when a lady left. They called him the "Philadelphia gentleman", and said now their wives expected them to do the same. When they got older and could no longer go to the dances every week, mom donated most of her gowns to Mt. Hebron High School's drama department. They enjoyed many trips and activities with the Shrine. They also belonged to a social club which did a lot of charity work. They would hold dances and other events to make money to give to different charities. Many cruises were taken on the QE II with friends to the Caribbean. They also ventured to Bermuda and took me and a friend along to celebrate my graduating from UMBC. They also went on many Shrine conventions to Ocean City, Toronto, etc. Neither of my parents drank or smoked, and I remember my dad always complaining when they came home from dances of smelling like smoke. He was neat as a pin and did not like that at all. Mom also belonged to Bou Tern Sci, a women's auxiliary of the Shrine that had banquets, outings, etc. They raised money for shoes for the cripple children at the Shrine Hospitals. She was active in the Ellicott City Senior Center and enjoyed going there on Tuesdays and seeing her friends. We were all active in Bethany Methodist Church, but unfortunately in the past 4 years did not attend because of mom's illness. She enjoyed entertaining at home, and every Christmas our house was filled with 15 to 20 friends. Both my parents were wonderful cooks, and mom was lucky as dad loved to cook also, and was as neat as she was around the house. All her friends said that she really got a "good one". She had a wonderful mind, a hearty laugh and a good sense of humor. She had a wonderful life with a great husband, and they enjoyed doing many things ogether. My friends at the hospital adopted my mom, and when we would all go out to dinner they would always tell me to bring her along. We had many good trips together, and enjoyed each other's company.
Things went along fine until 1991 when dad had his open heart surgery. It was a success, but he was very fragile and thin afterward. Mom worried everyday about him, but did a great job of taking care of him. I think it took a lot out of her, but she did not complain. He passed away in June, 2002. She was devastated. I moved in with her to help. We had some good times. We visited family in Wildwood, where mom had her first boat ride with her nephew Donny and his wife Margie. We had a great time. We managed to go to Williamsburg, Lancaster, St. Michaels, the shore, and many other places. Mom did fine, but I still think she missed daddy. She was adopted by my friends from the hospital, and when we all went out to dinner mom was always invited.
When my dad passed away in 2002 mom was very lonely, and I moved back in with her. When I retired I got her interested in going back to the Ellicott City Senior Center where she made a lot of new friends and got involved in many things. Things went along until 2011, when mom started to have hospital visits, mostly for minor things. One big event occurred in 2010 when she had her pacemaker put in. We almost lost her that time. She went to rehab and then home. The next years were occasional trips to the hospital. She always was interested in a lot of things, but that year she seemed to not want to do too much. I kept after her to go out. She got her hair done occasionally, and we would eat at Shannon's, but she seemed sad. She always got that way especially around the holidays. She got a good report from her cardiologist two weeks before Christmas. But, between Thanksgiving and Christmas she seemed to lose interest in things. The Friday before New Year's Eve, we had a nice dinner, watched TV, and she went to bed at 11:30 saying she was tired. She had been sleeping a lot lately. She always got up two or three times a night to go into the bathroom, and I gave her a bell to ring so I could help her. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. New Year's Eve, and noticed that she was still in bed and had not rung her bell all night. I came out of the bathroom and called to her, and she was not responsive. Her arm was moving around, but her eyes were not focusing. I called 911, and she went to Howard County Hospital with a stroke. Fortunately, the nurses and doctors at the hospital got her through this awful time. Bev and George came down and stayed with me for a week. They were really great. My other cousins called to see how she was. She was in the hospital, and then rehab which was not very good. I decided to take care of her at home, and I employed nurses to come to the house 8 hours a day, and an aide at night. She did very well, and celebrated her 100th birthday on April 5, 2020. Some of my cousins came to celebrate with her. She enjoyed watching TV and interacting with the nurses and visitors. Unfortunately, a few weeks after that she suffered another slight stroke, and was not the same after that. She mostly slept, and was not really aware of anyone around her anymore.
Mom saw a lot in her life, the proliferation of cars, the Depression, World War II, her brother being killed at Normandy, the advent of airplane travel, jets, TV, radio, computers, cell phones, etc. She always like to try new things, except for flying. She never would get into an airplane.
Mom had a good life with a good husband. She was very intelligent, read a lot, and was up on almost everything going on in the world. She had a hearty laugh, and a good sense of humor. My father used to tease her, and said that she should have been an English teacher. She would read the Sun paper and circle all the misspelled words and typos in red ink. When my dad would open up the paper all he saw were red circles. They would always laugh about that.
I want to thank her wonderful nurse Judith Pratt, and Bessie, and her aide Gloria who made her last days very happy and comfortable. Without them I don't think she would have lasted as long as she did. Also, thank you to our neighbors Kay, Tara, Ned, Casey and Megan who always were there when needed. A special thanks to my cousin Beverly and her husband George who were always here when needed, also.
I think she had a very nice life, and I think she enjoyed every minute of it. She had a good husband, and I hope a good daughter. I will miss her, as we used to take trips together and enjoyed each other's company. I just lost my best friend, but still have the memories. God speed mom. You were one of a kind, and I will see you soon. She was also the "Best Mom".
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