Margaret Jane Collins

Keene, N.H. — Margaret Jane “Peggy” Collins, a long-time resident of the Monadnock Region, whose nursing career spanned five decades at the Maplewood Nursing Home in Westmoreland, N.H., passed away on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, at the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H. She had first faced cancer a dozen years ago, matter-of-factly, stoically, modest about the inner strength she brought to her recovery. At that time, she had the accurate sense that a good outcome awaited her. Over the past summer, she brought that same mental toughness and clarity to a different, meaner form of the disease, and knew she was not going to beat it. Wanting to spare herself and her family the suffering of a prolonged fight, she chose to stop all treatments and interventions. She died in the way that many of us would choose to if we had a choice: on her own terms, peacefully, bravely, surrounded by devoted loved ones who were with her constantly through her final days. She was 76.

She was born to Leon and Lucinda (Eastman) Woodbury in Bellows Falls, Vt., on June 25, 1937, but grew up in Orange, N.H., in the rugged, rocky hill-farm country on the western slopes of Mount Cardigan. She attended a one-room school in Orange before moving on to high school in Canaan and Lebanon, graduating in 1955. She received her R.N. nursing pin three years later from the Concord Hospital School of Nursing. Following stints at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., and Elliot Community Hospital in Keene, she found her life’s work at Maplewood, where she worked as a night nurse and where she retired as supervisor in 2002. She gave dignity and comfort to countless Cheshire County residents at the ends of their lives.

Along the way, she married a Brit, raised a family, sang in the choir at Keene’s St. James Episcopal Church, did ceramics work, went to country auctions, and cared for her ailing mother.

She loved perfume bottles, card games, and the Boston Red Sox. She loved sitting and watching the light change on the surface of Lake Champlain. She loved, most of all, spending time with her children and grandchildren.

She is survived by her former husband of 29 years, Frank J. Collins, of Nelson, N.H.; brother-in-law, Nathan Harpootlian, of Orange; daughter, Katherine “Casey” Tucker, of Nelson, and her husband, Troy; son, Andrew Collins, of Walpole, N.H., and his wife, Heather; son, James Collins, of Orange, and his wife, Kristen Laine; son, David Collins, of Charlestown, N.H.; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a small but important number of lifelong friends. She was predeceased by a brother, Lyle Woodbury; and a sister, Dorothy (Woodbury) Harpootlian. She leaves a hole at the cribbage table, and in our hearts.

Foley Funeral Home of Keene is assisting with arrangements, though characteristically, at Peggy’s request, no formal services are planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.