Peggy Ann Quinn was born in Hartford, CT on March 31, 1945 to Margaret Quinn Tolman and Myron Dean Tolman. They met while he was in Hartford on leave while serving as a navigator in the Army Air Corp in Africa during WWII. After the war Dean was finally able to meet his six-month-old daughter and the young family returned home to Wyoming. Through her childhood in the BigHorn Basin in Wyoming, Peggy developed a sustaining love for mountains, animals and all of the natural world. Her first experiences with mourning were over the bodies of beloved bum lambs and wild rabbits.
Peggy graduated as Valedictorian from Worland High School in 1963. She left high school with the dream of becoming a doctor in a time when few women were able and enrolled in a science-geared curriculum at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. There she met David Beacom, her first husband and father of their three children. She graduated from Creighton with honors and a degree as a Medical Technologist. She worked in bacteriology in various hospitals for 20 years. In 1978, she and David moved from Omaha, NE to Denver, CO with their three children Amy, Dean, and Davey where they became an early and committed family of the fledgling Denver Waldorf School.
Around 1986, after receiving inspiration on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, Peggy was called to create a welcoming home to support life transitions, particularly birthing, aging, and dying. She wanted to honor the Celtic tradition of the Anam Chara, or soul friend – the woman in the villages who was both the midwife at birth and mourner at death. Peggy had an early recognition in this country of the spiritual and human importance of these meaningful, yet often overlooked, life passages. Over the course of 30 years she took daily action to change the way in which we interact with death and dying, both practically, emotionally, and spiritually. She is recognized globally as being a trailblazing force in the death and dying movement who helped lead the transformation around the way we do death in our country.
She established three Anam Chara elder-care facilities where she cared for and honored elders in their final years and through their death passage. Peggy’s Anam Chara homes facilitated and supported families to embrace death as a pathway to healing and a vital part of one’s preparation for the spiritual journey that death and grieving requires of us, no matter one’s religious, spiritual, or cultural tradition. Peggy took her family through this process when her father needed care, and showed them the way it could be done. Her family is so grateful to have been given this knowledge and are proud to be able to share it through her death passage as well. After her divorce from David in the late 1980’s, Peggy chose to take the last name of Quinn, which was her mother’s maiden name. She has been known as Peggy Quinn ever since.
She met her second husband, Donald (“Don”) Henderson in Crestone, CO where he was a practicing Buddhist monk living in silence. Together they found their soul’s connection in each other and a way to live together that honored Don’s need for solitude and Peggy’s need for connection. Don was a bedrock force that Peggy depended on to support and deepen her work with Anam Chara – both in the world and in their Boulder home where she often welcomed individuals facing various life transitions to stay, grow, and heal.
In her last years, Peggy was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, which she navigated with grace, humility, anger, confusion, and ultimately pixie-like exuberance and peace. She turned her struggle with dementia into another learning experience to share with us all and used her tenacity to care through moments that others would never have survived. Through her disease Peggy showed all of us what it is like to dance and find joy in life, even in the midst of tragedy.
In her final years Peggy was closely cared for by her beloved son Dean, her “daughter-in-love” Jessica and her cherished granddaughters, Lily and Piper. Of all of her worldly accomplishments, nothing made Peggy more proud than her family – her three children, her four grandchildren (Luca, Lily, Maggie, and Piper), sister Maureen, four nieces and nephews (Tolman, Brendan, Brian, Caitlin), and ten grandnieces and nephews (Tiernan, Ameyalli, Marcella, Siobhan, Pearl, Cash, Myron, Iris, Briena, and Arlo).
She died peacefully in her home surrounded and held by 13 beloved family members – as she held them so often.