Friday, May 13, 2011

Peg McIntire Remembered

Jun 2, 2008

Margery D. (Peg) McIntire quietly passed away on the night of May 29. Her son, Jo, and daughter-in-law, Sali, were by her side.

Born on October 2nd, 1910, raised in Woodmere, Long Island, Peg was a lively youngster, a good student and athlete at Woodmere Academy. She was also a talented pianist. She especially enjoyed accompanying her violinist mother, Hilda Stern Dallet, at temple, weddings and parties.

In the fall of 1927, Peg was granted a scholarship at Vassar College, which she abandoned in the middle of her junior year to marry writer Larry Goldstone. At that time, Vassar did not have male students, nor enroll married women. She transferred to Columbia University, but once again abandoned her studies, this time for a prolonged honeymoon in Torremolinos, Spain. While Larry wrote, Peg played chess on the beach, took odd jobs such as baby sitting and teaching English, and helped the local Rotary Club build a golf course to lure cruise ships to Malaga.

Peg's hero was her older brother, Joe. He abandoned his studies at Dartmouth College in the middle of his junior year. At the suggestion of Roger Baldwin, founder of ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, he transferred to the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, to study the labor movement. Later he became an organizer for the fledgling CIO Steel Workers Union in Youngstown, Ohio. Angered by Generalissimo Franco's fascist regime in Spain, Joe joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, boarded ship, flew to Paris, but was arrested and jailed in Perpignon for nearly a month. He was finally released with orders to be out of France within 48 hours. Together with fellow inmates, he climbed the Pyrenees by night, met up with his unit, and, despite being a "political commissar," he moved to the front lines of battle and was killed in the famous Battle of the Ebro.

Joe's death was a catalyst in Peg's life. She and Larry left Spain and started anew in New Orleans. Peg was determined to do something that Joe would have done – or would have admired. After considerable searching, Peg was directed to a shabby YMCA meeting hall to hear Gordon McIntire talk about his efforts to organize a union of small farmers, tenant farmers and sharecroppers in Louisiana. Peg, 5'2", a city girl, fell in love with Gordon, 6'2", a country boy. Their courtship was not easy. Gordon developed TB. Peg carried on the Union work alone until her mother died in an auto accident and she was needed in NYC to care for her father. Six years later Peg and Gordon married. Gordon got a Masters Degree in Denver, while Peg worked for the National Youth Administration. They moved to Washington, DC, where Gordon worked for the Bureau of the Budget and Peg for the Office of Price Administration and as a freelance speech-writer for the NEA (National Education Association).

In 1948 Jil was born, in 1949 Jo. In 1952, Gordon was offered a transfer to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy. The excited little family moved from their Georgetown home to a terraced sun-filled apartment in Rome. Jil and Jo went to a Montessori preschool, and were speaking Italian within a week. Peg learned kitchen Italian but later attended the Dante Alleghieri Language School for proper grammar and was given the opportunity of a lifetime - to become gofer, translator, private secretary, 24/7 assistant to Henry Hennigson, producer for MGM's giant film "Ben Hur". She got to work with the poet Christopher Fry, Gore Vidal, both Wilders, Charlton Heston, Michael Boyd, Martha Scott, and many others. Gordon was not so lucky.

Sen. Joe McCarthy provoked a five-year legal battle with the U.S. Government for Gordon. He was summarily and wrongly dismissed from his employment with the FAO. The passports of the entire family were taken away. Gordon fought back. There were hearings, depositions, findings and appeals at every level. Finally he was totally vindicated, and compensated for legal costs. His back pay was put into an escrow account in the U.S. where it eventually expired because, although the U.S. Embassy restored the passports, the family opted to stay in Italy and go into business. Their "empire" collaped with Gordon's sudden death from emphysema in 1969.

Jo and Sali brought Peg back to the U.S. in 1980. Another country, another life! The three immigrants settled in Saint Augustine. Always motivated, Peg quickly found fellow activists in NOW, Pax Christi and the statewide Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. For 15 years she served as Treasurer for the Coalition and was the guru for its summer Peace Camps and music festivals. In 1985 in California, at a NOW conference, Peg met and was inspired by Barbara Weidner, founder of Grandmothers for Peace, Int'l. Upon returning to Florida, Peg founded an affiliate, called Grandparents for Peace, St. Augustine, which has some 100 members. Although primarily anti-nuke, anti-war, anti-violence, the organization recognizes the connection of violence with poverty, racism, homelessness, social and economic injustice, and supported individuals and organizations striving to improve social conditions, provide leadership, and generally creating a saner, safer, happier and healthier world. Peg has attended the last eight demonstrations at Fort Benning, GA, to close the notorious School of the Americas.

In 1999 Peg and other grannies protested the launch of NASA’s Cassini, carrying 72.5 lbs of radioactive plutonium, at Cape Canaveral. After serving 30 days in jail, she was hounded with questions like "what did they give you to eat? How often could you bathe? " Wanting to give people something more important to think about, she and Paul Archetko created an Earth Day event in Saint Augustine which has since become an annual affair.

Until the end of 2007 Peg worked at Susan Bradley’s candle shop. Peg and Susan also worked together creating the St. Augustine Youth Hostel and organizing the Toys for Tots program.

Peg was hospitalized for the first time in her life in 2007 with an intestinal problem. On the first day after leaving the rehab center, she made her way to the anti-war rally held that Saturday morning at the Bridge of Lions, co-sponsored by Grandparents for Peace, People for Peace & Justice, and Veterans for Peace. She ended 2007 participating as an invitee in the Council of Elders established by UNF's "Peace Awareness Week" together with her close friends Stetson Kennedy and John Linnehan.

In 2008 at the age of 97, Peg had to start cutting back on her activities after suffering a major heart attack. But she never gave up.

She was a voracious reader, an avid scrabble player, and a twice a week played at the Duplicate Bridge Club. She always attended the Gamble Rogers Festivals, rarely missed a concert at the pier, followed every tennis tournament on TV, campaigned for Senator Barak Obama, and always gave full support to her children, Jo and Sali.

Peg was born and raised Jewish, taught Christian Sunday School while living in Italy, joined the Center for Positive Living for a few years, and has been a long standing member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

During the past months, Peg received extraordinary care from Community Hospice, their doctor, nurses, aides, social workers and volunteers.

Peg had many friends and an incredible intergenerational support base. She will be missed for her blue eyes, her smile, her jokes, her vitality, her dedication to causes, her love for Chinese food, music, and red wine.

No flowers, please.

A donation may be sent to Community Hospice of NE Florida, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville, FL 32257 or to the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, PO Box 652, Brunswick, Maine 04011.

Plans for a Memorial Service to be announced.

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