26 March, 1947 – 6 March, 2021
On November 9th, 2020, Peggy McLeod visited her garden one last time. Warm air blown in from the tropics gave the feeling of a spring day as she directed her youngest son Ian to take her around. They talked with each other and commented on what they saw and when Peggy was satisfied (but not before) with having seen enough she asked her son to take her to another section of the garden. When afternoon verged on evening and the sunlight turned golden Peggy stood up from her wheelchair and crouched among her plants. As she had done so many times before she gathered dried flowers, sticks, and grasses to bring into the house. The air outside turned cold but inside was warm and Peggy enjoyed a home cooked meal with her husband and son with two large vases of fresh-picked flowers set on the table. Four months later, peacefully and with family, she would pass on.
“If of thy worldly gifts thou art bereft,
and two loaves alone to thee are left.
Sell one and with the dole,
buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”
Peggy was born March 26th, 1947, in a small town in Scotland, only child of Daisy (Henderson) Bezanson, a Scottish War Bride, and Nova Scotia Annapolis Valley North Mountain native Isaac Bezanson, then continuing his service in the wartime Forestry Corps, taking down a number of temporary Scottish sawmills for shipment to Europe's postwar reconstruction effort. “Ike” Bezanson had also served with distinction in the First World War.
In 1950 the little family shipped out to Canada, landing not at Pier 21 but the newly Canadian port of St. John's Newfoundland, then on to tiny Greenwood Square in the central Annapolis Valley, which was almost completely surrounded by the new CFB Greenwood air base. Peggy often talked fondly of her childhood there; of games played with the other children, of trips to the Bay of Fundy coast where Ike had a seaside cottage, and of colourful local characters at the Square. She treasured the mementos and memories she saved from this time.
After the Square was swallowed up by the air base Peggy and her parents moved to a little house on Ward Road, across from the Tasty Twirl and not far from the air base's main gate. She distinguished herself at the Independent Baptist Kingston Bible College Academy (primary to grade 12) on Bridge Street, which was only a five minute stroll cutting through the woods. Following her high school graduation, and more-or-less simultaneously, she took teacher training at the historic Provincial Normal School at Truro (now home to the Colchester East Hants Regional Library), taught at Middleton's Macdonald Consolidated School (where one of the other teacher's group violin lessons nearly drove her buggy over lunch hours; it’s now a museum), and completed a bachelor's at Acadia (Plant Biology with a minor in English, combining arts and science like her daughter did in her degree).
Peggy then accepted a one year teaching post with the Grenfell Mission on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula near Dear Lake, where she boarded with the local fisheries officer, occasionally passing on inscrutable complaints phoned in by the local fishers. He gifted her with an official seal hunting licence for that year which she always kept. No whitecoat seal pups were harmed.
The next year she spent teaching at a parochial high school sited at a former Bomarc missile base in southern Saskatchewan. That took her to around 1973, when she returned to Acadia and a job as library assistant at the Huggins Science Library, so as to be closer to her parents and Fahrenheit temperatures greater than Celsius ones.
Peggy was introduced to her future husband John by a mutual acquaintance in the summer of '75 and they started dating late that year, his last at Acadia where he was finishing a belated bachelor's. Unfortunately Ike died in early April at Greenwood only shortly before John would have met him but Peggy had John to comfort her and their whirlwind courtship continued. John's May '76 Acadia Convocation gave a chance for Peggy to briefly meet his parents, then he and Peggy drove to Lexington days after the American Bi-Centennial and she charmed his Massachusetts relatives and friends. Several of them made it up for the small private ceremony the next month, August, next door to the Ward Road home at the home of a couple who were Ike and Daisy's close friends. It was the hottest day Environment Canada had recorded in Nova Scotia to that time and the Best Man, one of John's brothers, was wearing a double-breasted wool suit.
Peggy moved with John the next month, September 1976, to a tiny apartment on Springvale Avenue in west end Halifax (golf balls from Ashburn's 17th tee hit the wall daily). Daughter Alice soon arrived and Daisy sold her Greenwood home to help the four of them — Peggy, mother, husband, daughter — live together on a quiet street near St. Stephen's School on Halifax peninsula's North End, starting in early 1979. Peggy dwelt on that street for the rest of her days.
“And meeting so many neighbours. We met so many neighbours! It was a marvellous afternoon.”
Peggy’s life could be talked about in terms of her loves. She loved her parents, husband, children, and grandson. She loved her daughter-in-law Debbie and her son-in-law Dave. She loved her best friend Valerie. She loved her other friends and neighbours. She loved her cats Princess Puss and the ferocious (so he thought) Pumpkin Feathers. Peggy loved teaching. She loved plant biology. She loved all books and especially mystery novels and scifi and non-fiction. She loved her garden and flowers and cats and birds and nature. She loved puttering about the house and walking around the neighbourhood, especially to look in on people's gardens over at the Hydrostone. Peggy loved charity and her community. She loved her since-consolidated tiny Knox Presbyterian Church on nearby Roome Street. She loved going to yard sales with her best friend. She loved getting a good deal. She loved her Scottish heritage. Peggy loved crafts and making things to give to friends and family. She loved her collections of “stuff” and antiques. Peggy loved her teddy bear Teddsy who was a comforting presence in her bed every night and who now stays in her son Ian’s bed. She loved more than could fill this page.
Most of all Peggy loved and was devoted to her children. She was determined that they would be safe and secure and well educated. She fought zealously for them and supported them always. They were the great joy of her life and she was so happy to welcome her daughter-in-law and son-in-law as well as her first grandson into the family. The frequent visits and conversations with her children (including her children-in-law and her grandson), as well as news and pictures from their lives, were always cherished by her.
“Little brother Eric was in the driveway with us having lots of fun riding his HotWheel back and forth through the puddle. The puddles worked even better to see the eclipse than the pinhole camera. It was indeed fascinating to see that succession. Alice may have learned more than she ever wanted to know! But she learned a lot about an eclipse. She enjoyed finding out so much about our solar system.”
Peggy had cared for her mother in Daisy's later years and Peggy’s love for her parents, her husband, her children, her friends, and her community was returned when she herself needed care. In 2014, much to Peggy’s joy, her son Ian returned from the west coast to stay with and care for her along with her husband John, who was with her throughout their marriage, seldom away for more than a few days at a stretch. With love and care from them and from other family and friends across the city and the world, Peggy lived the most comfortable life she could. She never had to spend a single night outside of her home in her final years and every day and night was spent together with her beloved family.
“Real love stories never have endings.”
Peggy’s last day was spent comfortably and in the company of her husband John and son Ian. It was an ordinary and peaceful day. She had slept well the night before and had a good amount to eat and drink during the day. Either her husband or her son or both were at her side at all times. She was told she was loved and had lots of hugs. Shortly before 7pm on March 6th, 2021, while she was sitting together with her husband and son, being held by her son and listening to some of her favourite music, with one of her favourite songs having just finished, Peggy McLeod passed peacefully and suddenly in the space of two quick breaths. Within the hour her home was filled with family and friends crying and reminiscing and comforting each other while celebrating the life of a beloved friend, wife, and mother.
“This cup is supposed to have belonged to Queen Victoria. A relative of my mother’s (an aunt, maybe?) had worked as a maid at Balmoral. Queen Victoria liked a big breakfast cup, but when this one got cracked, the Queen could no longer use it. So (with or without permission) a servant took it home.”
When a person dies one of the most important things their loved ones need, aside from hugs and food and baked sweets, are documents. Information that you could have asked a person for a week ago suddenly needs to be dug up from long untouched and half-forgotten storage spaces. This is an unexpected blessing, though, because it gives a chance to find the ephemera and nostalgic items of a loved one’s life.
John and Ian have written this notice together but I (Ian) would like to share something from the days following Mom’s passing. Looking for a copy of Mom’s will I found so many things that made me smile and brought me comfort. I found some mementos from dates her and Dad went on when they first met (a couple pins from a carnival, a menu from some event) as well as notes she had written and other things she had saved. Some of these I’ve included here: a poem she was trying to remember in 2017 that I looked up for her and saved because she liked it; an excerpt from a thank you note she wrote to a neighbour who hosted the end of summer block party she had so much fun attending; an excerpt from a 2018 letter to Dad’s cousin where she mentioned a recent eclipse and reminisced about one she helped her kids see (she helped her kids view more than one eclipse, in fact, including one where the school had wanted to keep all the students inside with the curtains shut); a page for the first full day of spring from a 2008 quote-of-the-day calendar that had presumably been a gift from her best friend which she had saved (in true Scottish fashion) to use as note paper years later (and which we had been using for grocery lists); a hand-written note Mom had left folded up in a tea cup which, according to family lore, had belonged to Queen Victoria and of which Mom was very proud; and a couple more, which I’ll explain as we come to them.
These items are comforting not only by their association with Mom but through the simple truth they remind us of: that a person’s life is not confined to their body because everything they touch and everyone they love carries a bit of their spirit and memory with them. Mom did so much in her life and she so deeply cared for and loved so many of us. As long as the gifted and wind-blown seeds of her garden still bloom, and as long as those she loved and who loved her carry her in their hearts, she will live on.
“If you wish to make a donation in memory of — please consider the — fund, or simply remember to pass on a kindness to others whenever you can.” (From handwritten notes attached to some clipped excerpts from newspaper obituaries, presumably to help with drafting one for someone else.)
I would like to end with another personal note and a poem, but first, I’ll list the details of one’s life that are traditional to include. Peggy McLeod was born Margaret Virginia Bezanson on March 26th, 1947, to Isaac and Daisy Bezanson. She chose the name Peggy out of preference (she never wanted to be called Margaret, and made sure to give her children simple first names that only had one form) and she acquired the name McLeod out of love. She is survived by her husband John McLeod; by her daughter Alice McLeod, her son-in-law Dave McLeod, and her grandson Callum McLeod; by her eldest son Eric McLeod and her daughter-in-law Debbie MacKenzie; and by her youngest son Ian McLeod. She passed away in comfort and peace with family by her side on March 6th, 2021, at the age of 73. A memorial will be held in later months when travel is easier.
Peggy was an only child of late marrying parents but had many distant cousins including two she frequently exchanged letters with, the late Margaret (Mrs. Wendell) Pineo of Kingston and MaryLee (Mrs. Roger) Eisnor of Wilmot, both towns close to Greenwood.
Some of her favourite charities include Phoenix House, Mission to Seafarers, and especially the food bank for the students at the Atrium, NSCC Institute of Technology campus in her neighbourhood. Donations to any of these in her memory or others of your choice would be appropriate if you so desire or, as Peggy said, “simply remember to pass on a kindness to others whenever you can.” Her husband John also adds that Peggy always loved wildflowers and if you want to bring some into your home in her memory, even just clover or dandelions (both much beloved by friend Valerie's rabbit in former years), that would be a thoughtful way to remember her.
I (Ian writing again) said I would like to add another personal note. I lived with and cared for Mom for more than six years from 2014 to 2021 and I’m thankful without reservation that I had the opportunity to do so. Mom, I would have cared for you every day of the rest of my life if you needed it and never for a day regretted that decision. You gave us so much love and support and I’m so happy that we all were able to return that love and support when you needed us most. In a life that led me to be able to care for you I can look back and regret nothing, and in my life ahead you support me now with the gifts of your love and of the wisdom and strength I gained in caring for you. You are so much more than can be captured in these few words.
I also said there would be another poem. For years now it had been Mom’s habit to pick up a small brown-leather gilt-edged century-old book of Tennyson’s poetry to read and memorize when she wanted comfort or to exercise her mind. The book was often to be found sitting on the small table between the couch and Alice's old piano, perhaps with her glasses placed on top of the book while she napped. Poetry is a comfort to family as well in a time like this and I wanted to find something appropriate from that collection that could be read aloud by Dad, as he had so often read to Mom before, whenever we needed it. At the time of writing Dad has read this poem aloud once when he, Debbie, Eric, and I viewed Mom one final time before her cremation. Lying peacefully, her childhood bear and security blanket resting on her chest, wearing her most comfortable clothes, Mom heard Dad read to her:
Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite
Beyond it, blooms the garden that I love.
News from the humming city comes to it
In sound of funeral or of marriage bells;
And, sitting muffled in dark leaves, you hear
The windy clanging of the minster clock;
Although between it and the garden lies
A league of grass, wash'd by a slow broad stream,
That, stirr'd with languid pulses of the oar,
Waves all its lazy lillies, and creeps on,
Barge-laden, to three arches of a bridge
Crown'd with the minster-towers.
(from The Gardener's Daughter)
We love you Mom, and we know you love us.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
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Paul & Nancy Llewellyn
31 March 2021
Dear John & Family: Our sincere condolences on Peggy’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this very difficult time.
Sincerely, Paul & Nancy Llewellyn
Audrey and Ken Croft
28 March 2021
John and Family, So sorry to hear of Peggy's passing. Remembering our families together at Knox church .....good memories indeed ! May your memories of Peggy be a comfort to you .Our deepest sympathy ! Audrey & Ken
26 March 2021
I remember Peggy from Knox Church.
Sorry to read of her passing, but she had a very well lived life, and I know she is still gardening in ways we cannot imagine, but will eventually see.
26 March 2021
John my condolences to you and your family on the loss of Peggy. I remember the first time I met her and Alice at Maritime Life when they dropped in at the office . Alice was " very busy" but I remember Peggy was so patient. I am sure your memories will be treasured. Marlene
Ruby and Jim MacKenzie
26 March 2021
Jim and I are so sorry for your loss. We are grateful to share your son Eric and our daughter Debbie with your family. I am so glad we all got to share their wedding day together. I wish we had known Peggy better and for more years, but it is clear that she was a very special person who was greatly loved by her husband and children.
26 March 2021
My deepest heart felt condolences to John and family. Peggy was a wonderful lady I always enjoyed our time together. She had wonderful stories and I loved hearing all of them. She will be deeply missed ❤ Liz
26 March 2021
So sorry to read of Peggy's death She was a dear friend when we went to Teacher's College in Truro and then I was bride's maid at her wedding. We sent cards back and forth but I did not know she was ill. So sorry to read in the paper today of her death. My sincere sympathy and condolences to all the family. May Peggy rest in peace. Blessings to you all. Shirley [Gilby] Nicoll
26 March 2021
Alice I’m so sorry for your loss. Peggy was such a wonderful person. I have many warm memories of your Mom from our childhood. She was wonderfully patient, and kind. Even though we were children she always talked to us with respect, never talking down to us.
Thinking of you and your family
22 March 2021
Dear John & Family, I am so sad to hear about Peggy's passing. A more wonderful, positive, beautiful lady would be difficult to find. I think of her fondly as an inspiration to others struggling with illness and pain. She reminded me so much of my Nanny- so giving, so caring, so kind, so strong. Countless times, Peggy and you, Dear John, came by NSCC, IT Campus, always with a donation for the Student Food Bank - snow, rain, whatever the weather, Peggy did her best to accompany you on the walk over (loved her straw sun hat!). A great smile, a sense of humour - always so welcomed. I will remember her fondly and treasure the gift of "Silver Dollars" from her garden. Heaven has another angel. With heartfelt condolences, Debbie Munro, NSCC, Student Services
19 March 2021
John, I was sorry to hear of your wife's passing. May she now rest from her sufferings and be at peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you . Kay Ann Meagher
18 March 2021
My favourite memories of Peggy were always when she was showing off her garden, and showing her Grandson Callum where the best places to find the newts were. She knew where every plant was and what they were. The cranberry bog around the corner always gave her joy, and sharing the flowers from her garden at our wedding was classic Peggy. She was brilliant at garage sales, she collected up a suitcase full of lego from them one point, and she had perfected the art of the haggle, always with an appreciation for the effort that handcrafted work took. Gran will be remembered and missed by her family in Montreal. -David, Alice, & Callum.
18 March 2021
Sending along our deepest condolences to the McLeod family on the passing of Peggy. She and John would trek with bags in hand to the Nova Scotia Community College- IT Campus bringing donations of food to the student food bank. They did this weekly/monthly for many years even when they could barely make it here on foot. Their generosity and kindness has helped countless students who otherwise may have gone hungry. We'll always remember Peggy in our hearts .
Marco DiGiosia, Manager Administrative Services, NSCC
18 March 2021
Thank-you so much everyone who has supported our family since the passing of Peggy. She was a loving wife to me and so much more -- daughter, friend, mother, "Gran", mentor, student, teacher and all around complete human being. Sorely missed.