Margaret Lathwell

Obituary of Margaret Janet Lathwell

Margaret Janet (Peggy) Lathwell, nee Smith

 (Oct 8, 1944 - April 3, 2024)


Peggy was also known as Mum, Mom, Amala (Tibetan for mother), Momola (Tibetan for grandmother), Dr. Peggy and Auntie Peggy.  She lived to be 79 years old and was a resident of the Parkdale neighborhood in Toronto, Ontario.

Peggy passed away suddenly and quickly due to a catastrophic brain bleed on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.  Her daughter Catherine was with her and made sure that her last wishes were honored.  Her daughter Jody was able to talk with her via video in her last few minutes.  Peggy did not want any major medical intervention; she died on her own terms and she lived a full life up until the end.  She passed away at nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto.

Peggy is survived by her daughters Catherine Lathwell (Toronto, ON) and Jody Lathwell (Euclid, OH); her grandsons Colin and Mitchell Lathwell; her sister Betty Jensen (Bob) of Calgary, AB; nephew David Jensen (Marcie) of Calgary, AB; niece Diane Burnett (Brad) of Creston, BC and grandnieces and grandnephew:  Laura, Isla, Teryn, Rielle, and Bowen.

Peggy was born in Calgary, Alberta to Janet (Jean) Smith, nee Hampton and James Lorne (JL) Smith.  Over her lifetime, she lived in Calgary, AB; Edmonton, AB; Yorktown Heights, NY; Swarthmore, PA; the Cleveland area, OH; and Toronto, ON.

She attended high school in Calgary, AB; studied biology at Swarthmore College (1976) and graduated from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1983.  The first two years of her residency were at Underwood Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, after which she completed her residency requirements at MetroHealth in Cleveland, OH.  She went on to work as a Family Physician at Clement Center (Cleveland, OH) and when she returned to Canada, she practiced at Regent Park Community Health Center in Toronto until she retired in 2015.

Peggy had an artistic spirit and spent her last years doing the things she loved.  She created a beautiful oasis of a garden on her postage stamp of a property that she shared with her oldest daughter Catherine.  She was part of a group of volunteer gardeners who put in some amazing native pollinator gardens along Roncessvalles Avenue.  Once that situation changed, she guerilla gardened at the busy intersection of Queen and Callender Streets, creating a native plant/pollinator haven that gained her notoriety throughout the neighborhood.  She is well known to her neighbors who really appreciate the beauty of her gardens.  The Green P Garden is evidence of her quiet resolve as she had to contend with the plethora of challenges that accompany working in a dense urban public space.

Peggy had recently taken up repairing the clothes of her family members, inspired by Japanese style Sashiko.  Her mending became increasingly complex and colorful.  She was determined to send as little to landfill as possible and spoiled her daughters in doing so!

Peggy was a lifelong political and environmental activist--- her daughters remember marches on Washington DC when they were young.  More recently, she had been out on the street for many causes.  She found quite a few kindred spirits out there at the demos!

One of our favorite photos is of her holding her handmade sign with an excerpt from a Jack Layton quote:  “Love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.”

Peggy loved folk music and really enjoyed going to music festivals that featured Appalachian Old Time music.  She was a voracious reader and kept meticulous records of books she read.  She was an avid camper and up until not that long ago was going on solo, winter tent camping trips.  Her daughters remember camping trips in the New Jersey Pine Barrens in what is now old style pup tents—the kind that you can’t touch the side of the tent or else it will start to leak water. 

Peggy was often affectionately described as stubborn--- seems to run in the family.  But we all agree that one must be so in this world.  Her shy demeanor only briefly hid her deep thinking, which revealed itself quickly once one got to talking with Peggy.  She had a quiet determination like no other—although, perhaps her daughters inherited a bit of her resolution.

Her compassion combined with integrity compelled her to strive to make positive change around her.  Along with the many protests she attended, the financial support of organizations she deemed doing good work, she had a profound impact on the people who got to know her.  Despite her reserved nature, she had the ability to connect with many individuals on a very personal level.  And by that I mean many MANY individuals. 

Peggy did not go into medicine to make money, but to be a positive force for those truly in need.  She went way above and beyond the call of duty in often quite stressful situations.  She cared deeply about her patients and felt fortunate to have collaborated with some amazing colleagues along the way.  Those relationships were incredibly important to her, and I know she is missed by these wonderful people.

Peggy was a devoted mother, sister, grandmother, environmentalist, and caretaker for anyone who knew her---she patiently and compassionately answered all medical questions.  If she didn’t know the answer, she diligently researched.  Her family benefited greatly from her knowledge and she showed up for all of us when there was any medical concern and especially for the big ones.  Seems to run in the family (Auntie Betty--- you know what I mean!!!)

She was the best Mum ever, and an amazing Momola!  There is a big hole in many lives, but we are all grateful to have been close to her.

Peggy gave to numerous organizations.  If you feel moved to do so, please donate to:

David Suzuki Foundation or Karma Sonam Dargye Ling (KSDL)

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

Jack Layton

Please share a memory, photo or sentiment of Peggy's life here at her memorial legacy page.

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