MADISON-Margaret “Peg” Gunderson Stiles, an independent woman who loved nature and the arts, died on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, at her home in Monroe. She was 89 years old.
Peg was born in Madison on Feb. 2, 1924, to Louis C. and Pearl Hinkel Gunderson. She grew up in Monona. As the daughter of a concert violinist (Pearl played with the Chicago Symphony and Madison Symphony), Peg studied violin and enjoyed all kinds of music. She attended East High School, where she earned the nickname “Picnic Peg” due to her love of a good picnic—an appreciation that continued long into the future.
A talented student, Peg entered the University of Wisconsin at age 16 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Foods and Nutrition. After graduation she traveled to Seattle, Washington, to take a dietetics internship at King County Hospitals. She then became a dietitian at Seattle’s Swedish Hospital. It was during this period she met a future doctor and her future husband, Frank Stiles, whom she wed in 1947.
Peg moved to Germany and Vienna when her husband became an Army medic during World War II. After that, the couple moved to Milwaukee, where Peg worked as a home economist for the Milwaukee Gas Company. In 1952 they settled in Monroe, where Dr. Stiles soon had a thriving pediatrics practice. The couple raised three loving children and Peg became an integral part of the community, as a dedicated member of civic organizations.
In 1974 Peg helped spearhead a campaign to turn an unused, century-old church building into the Monroe Arts and Activities Center. She helped raise community awareness about the endangered building as well as funds to save it. She became the group’s founding president and served on the Board of Directors. The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and hosts a performing art series, workshops, and ongoing art exhibits. In 1981 Peg earned a citation from the State Assembly for her work with the center.
Energetic and always willing to embark on an adventure, Peg enjoyed hiking and skiing, especially at the family cabin in Colorado. She skied with enthusiasm until she was 80 years old! After her beloved husband Frank passed away in 1987, Peg remained active and involved. She loved going on U.W. performing arts tours in Europe and the U.S., seeing opera, ballet, symphonies, plays, and musicals. She was always willing to drive from Monroe to Madison to attend a performance with her daughter, Cynthia.
Peg thrived on involvement and was, among other things, past president of the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology Alumni Board, the Monroe Jaycettes and Church Women United in Green County. She was a docent at the Elvehjem Museum of Art and a member of the U.W. Choral Union, Memorial Union Building Association and Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for the Arts. She earned the 1985 Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts, the 1983 Outstanding Senior Citizen from the Monroe Jaycees, and the 1980 Wisconsin Distinguished Home Economics Alumna Award. She was also a 55+ year member of Monroe Women’s Club and a member of the Lida Ludlow Reading Circle in Monroe, Gudrid Literary Society in Madison and the United Methodist Church in Monroe.
For all her community work and awards, Peg will also be remembered for her warmth, affectionate nature, and her fairness. She loved picking raspberries from her own bushes. She was extremely proud of her Norwegian heritage, and a member of Sons of Norway. She was proud to have been a supportive partner to her husband during his life.
Peg was preceded in death by her husband, Frank; her parents; her sister, Marion Gunderson Thompson; and her brother-in-law, George Thompson. She is survived by her children, Paul Stiles, Karen Stiles (V. Greg) Hintze, and Cynthia Stiles; her granddaughter, Lindsey Fitzgerald (Randall) Reinke; great-granddaughter, Ruby Reinke; loving nieces and nephews; and many dear friends, including in-home companions.
The family sends a very special thank-you to Gabrielle Breadon, Peg’s friend and Monroe’s “Irish Angel” and the Monroe Clinic Hospice Staff.
A Memorial Service will be held at UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 2227 4th St., Monroe, at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, with the Rev. Randy Booth presiding. Visitation will be held at the MONROE ART CENTER, in the Gunderson Stiles Concert Hall, 1315 11th St., Monroe, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Monroe Art Center, the United Methodist Church or the Margaret G. Stiles Scholarship Fund in support of the Arts.
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