By Geoff Agombar
Local Journalism Initiative
Everyone who remembers Peggy Munkittrick starts by stressing they cannot possibly find words to convey everything she touched in her life. But one thing they are certain of, she was the kind of person who made them feel special every time they met.
The kind of person who friend Cynthia Drew remembers getting stopped at the U.S. border and asked, “Do you have any jam for me today, Peggy?”
The kind of person who brought food and clothes when Ruth Lewis’s parents moved to Lennoxville in the ’60s. The kind of person who showed up with a fridge to replace their icebox, or co-signed on a loan so her parents could buy their first home. “They were Uncle Harold and Auntie Peggy to all the kids. The door to their house on Belvedere Street was never locked and there was always people there.”
Lewis remembers when she was six and her great-aunt passed away, it was Peggy who came to her room to comfort her through her sobs. Then in the ’80s, when she drove home from Montreal after her dad passed, Peggy was seated at the kitchen table when she got home. “She was just a constant in my life,” Lewis says. “This is a huge loss for me, but I’m just one of thousands.”
Peggy was born in Bury, QC in 1919, but her family moved to Lennoxville while she was still young. Her father had a lumberyard, but died when Peggy was still young. She grew up in the house on Belvedere (now College) Street, which she and her husband later lived in. She married Harold Munkittrick in 1940, a few years after he had purchased the bike shop that would operate under his name for 30 years.
Their house was always open and their truck was constantly ferrying children to Sunday school or supplies to this camp or that home on need. They maintained a vast network of relationships, and somehow knew who needed what, when, and how to offer material support in a way that people felt buoyed and treasured, not patronized.
“The thing I loved about my grandmother is she was a master of combining empathy and humour,” recounts grandson Dan Munkittrick. “My grandparents weren’t wealthy people, per se, because they didn’t believe in keeping their money. They believed in using it.”
“She had this internal drive. She was a woman of tenacity. She had a desire to do something important for people. She was totally ‘others-centric.’ Her whole outlook was how can she serve others in the littlest way,or in largest ways,” Dan says. “I can’t even begin to tell the stories. Poople will tell you stories I’ve never heard, because they were humble in that way. They didn’t broadcast what they did for others. They just did what they knew was the right thing.”
Although everyone remembers Peggy making jokes and flicking her hand to shoo away compliments and credits, the Munkittricks nonetheless played a foundational role in building several local institutions. Cynthia Drew describes Peggy as “welfare before we had welfare,” and indeed Peggy volunteered for Sherbrooke Welfare for many years.
Ruth Lewis remembers Peggy doing paperwork and legwork to arrange adoptions, and Peggy was at the centre of creating the Maplemount children’s home in Cookshire.
The Munkittricks had a cottage at Lake Wallace near the Quebec-Vermont border which, of course, was the same lake as the Frontier Lodge Christian Youth Camp. So, kids could come over to the Wallaces for boat rides and waterskiing. Harald drove supplies and children out from Sherbrooke in his army truck, and Peggy spent 25 years making meals and baking desserts from scratch in the kitchen.
After caring for an elderly aunt in their home, Peggy received an inheritance. That inheritance was invested to start up the Grace Christian Home, now known as Grace Village.
Again and again, Peggy and Harald found their way to the centre of what was needed, when it was needed, and there sprouted another community of service.
Dan Munkittrick recalls his grandparents perspective on life, “It’s not about personal accumulation. It’s about relational engagement. That’s what she and my grandfather did exceptionally well. It wasn’t just a friendly word. It was more like, You don’t have, so we’re going to figure out how to help you out with that.”
Dan says Peggy’s Christian faith was the central driver in everything she did. She strove to walk that faith in her every day and deed. Dan says a circle of like-spirited friends within the Grace Chapel community, including the families of Dr. William Klinck and Dr. Arthur Hill, were instrumental in the community building his grandparents are known for.
Sandra Klinck, director of care at Grave Village, describes them as “social workers without a formal title… Real pioneers.” Klinck thinks the two doctors were able to identify community needs through their medical practices, and together the small network of doers and givers just got down to the business of finding concrete ways to address those needs.
Dan says Peggy was a bright light in every room she entered. She continued to drive her own car and volunteer into her eighties. As an example of her undying zest for life, he remembers driving her up to Ottawa to spend Christmas 2002 with his family. He bought an air hockey table for his kids that year. Her great-children were still young and Peggy spent a whole day playing just as hard as any of them and beating them, too. “The next day, she couldn’t even lift her arm. She had to eat with her left hand. It was so classic. Another little example of her hunger to participate. And the whole time, just so much laughter going on.”
At Grace Village, Peggy was a fixture in her wheelchair outside her room, giving away candies and pinches and laughs. Even at 102, chasing down a 103rd birthday next January, Dan says Peggy was still her vibrant self until very recent days, always in the thick of things. When they came and Peggy was in her room, not in the hallway, they knew something had changed.
Klinck says it was a great privilege to care for Peggy in those final days. She recalls singing cherished hymns in her room on her final evening, last Friday, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be” and “It is well with my soul.”
Drew want people to remember, “Peggy had a servant’s heart.” Klinck adds a nuance, “She was a leader. But she was a servant-leader.”
Peggy and her late husband Harald Munkittrick had one son, the late Dale Edward Munkittrick. She was sister to the late Lester Campbell MacLeod. She is survived by her daughters-in-law Annabelle Dryden and Leah Munkittrick, her grandchildren Debbie Beck (Patrick), Dan Munkittrick (Kathy) and great-grandchildren Evan, Brigitta, Bryson Beck and Sarah McGinnis (Andrew), Matthew Munkittrick (Abby), Ben Munkittirck (Bethany). Her first great-great-grandchild, Jedidiah, arrived seven months before her passing.
The family has scheduled a memorial after the holiday season, 2 p.m., Jan. 8 at Grace Village. Dan Munkittrick suggests contacting email@example.com closer to that date to confirm, as public health measures may yet necessitate a change of venue or time.