Monday, July 15, 2024

Margaret Lippitt Rorison, 97

WILMINGTON — Margaret Lippitt Rorison, known to all as Peg, died peacefully on January 10, 2023. Born February 6, 1925 in Wilmington, NC, she was the elder daughter of Harmon Chadbourn Rorison and Margaret Devereux (MarDev) Lippitt Rorison. She had an active childhood, enjoying adventures with her sister Mary Ann and her cousin and best friend Devereux Haigh Lippitt. She shared stories of childhood antics in Wilmington, in the mountains around Linville, NC, and in Savannah, GA.

Peg attended National Cathedral School in Washington, DC and graduated from Hollins College in 1946. A lifelong learner, she went on to an MA at Columbia University (1956), a diploma from L’Alliance Française in Paris (1966), and post-graduate work at the University of South Carolina.

Peg had a varied and fascinating career. After college, she moved to New York City, where she was hired at Scribner’s bookstore after helping a fellow customer so well that they praised her skills to the manager. She worked as a market and editorial researcher at Time magazine from 1949 to 1955. She then taught corrective reading in the New York City public school system, in Harlem, until 1965. In 1962 and 1963 she was also a TV instructor on New York City’s Channel 13. She studied folk guitar during this period. In 1965 she moved to Paris and spent two years studying, working, and traveling solo through Europe and North Africa.

In 1967, she settled in Columbia, SC, where she began a doctorate in reading education and started the innovative and award-winning public television program Getting the Word, followed by Getting the Message. These shows, which aired in at least eight states, helped students reading below grade level acquire and improve their reading skills without shame or judgment. The format brought together students from the Columbia public schools, using skits, music, and peer instruction, with Peg as on-screen facilitator and behind-the-scenes writer and producer. Peg continued as an instructional specialist and reading consultant in Columbia through the early 1980s.

When her mother needed help with daily living, Peg moved home to Wilmington without complaint and took on a new role as caretaker. She eased MarDev’s last years and rapidly became an integral part of the Wilmington community. She was an active member of the St. James parish, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and the Ministering Circle, for which she administered nursing student scholarships. She served for decades on the Nurse Advocate Board of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and was instrumental in the success of the nursing program, which is nationally ranked. In addition, she created five scholarships at UNCW in memory of family members. One of her most influential volunteer roles was starting and running the Lower Cape Fear chapter of Plant a Row for the Hungry, encouraging gardeners and farmers to grow extra crops to ameliorate food insecurity. Peg distributed countless thousands of pounds of fresh produce and helped the program succeed.

In the 1990s, Peg continued her world travels. She was invited to tour China in 1993 as part of a Reading Education Delegation organized by People to People International. Other trips took her to Austria, Mexico, Russia, and the Czech Republic.

Peg not only saw the good in everyone, but also brought out their best selves through her unfailing kindness, generosity, cheeriness, and optimism. She was interested in absolutely everything, and was always a sparkling source of light, who showed the best of herself every day and passionately believed in everyone she knew. Her classmates at the Cathedral School nominated her as “most lovable” in 1942, and everyone she met during her long and well-lived life would agree.

Peg is survived by her sister Mary Ann Caws and husband Boyce Bennett of New York City; her “guardian angel,” cousin and goddaughter Cece Lippitt Snow of Wilmington; her niece and goddaughter Hilary Caws-Elwit and husband Jonathan Caws-Elwitt of Northampton, MA; her nephew Matthew Rorison Caws and wife Emily Bidwell Caws of Cambridge, England, and grand-nephews Theodore Caws Stefanak and Shepard Lippitt Caws; her goddaughters Emmett Boney Haywood and Alice Lippitt Steyaart; and countless relatives who were friends and friends who were family.

The family would like to thank Anna Marie Hinnant and Hannah Howard of Always Good Company, as well as Ricki Clark, all of whom provided such loving care for Peg.

A memorial service will be held at St. James Episcopal Church in the spring. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to St. James Episcopal Church (25 S. 3rd St., Wilmington, NC 28401), the Ministering Circle (PO Box 3862, Wilmington, NC 28406), the Burgwin Wright House (14 S. 3rd St., Wilmington, NC 28401), or the NC Coastal Land Trust (3 Pine Valley Dr., Wilmington, NC 28412).

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