CRC Resident Peggy Cudkowicz: A ‘Pioneer in her field’

In celebration of National Women’s History Month, United Methodist Retirement Communities (UMRC) is proud to introduce you to Chelsea Retirement Community (CRC) resident, Dr. Peggy Cudkowicz.

Peggy’s sister-in-law says this about her: “She didn’t just open doors for women. She battered them down. She was a pioneer in her field.”

Margaret “Peggy” Raimes Cudkowicz (née Chandler) was born in Great Britain in 1920. As a young girl, Peggy was voted “most beautiful baby” by a local dairy. At school, she learned to play the flute under the directorship of famous composers, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughn Williams. However, the dangers of World War II loomed ever closer. Her family moved from London to Surrey in the English countryside following the German Blitzkrieg. Her father, a doctor who served during World War I, passed away soon after. Peggy and her mother, brother, Geoffrey, and sister, Ann, had to adjust from city life to life on their grandparents’ farm. Geoffrey was called to war and fought in Greece.

In 1945, Peggy finished nurse’s training in Oxford, working alongside the discoverer of penicillin, Dr. Alexander Fleming, and cared for soldiers during World War II. Following the war, Peggy followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming the first woman to attend medical school at formerly all-male St. Bartholomew’s Teaching Hospital. The only woman in her class, Peggy completed her M.D. around 1954.

Peggy married and had two children, Alex (born in 1961) and Penny (born in 1962). Peggy and family immigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada in the early 1960s and, in 1969, moved to Philadelphia. In 1976, the family moved to Dayton, Ohio where she practiced family medicine and taught medical students at Wright State University.

Active in her retirement, Peggy moved to a farmhouse in Michigan in 1991 where she enjoyed gardening, volunteering at a local hospital and women’s shelter, and playing the flute in the Dexter and Ypsilanti Community Bands. When her granddaughter, Jessica, was born, Peggy bought the house next to her daughter’s. “She thoroughly enjoys her role of grandmother,” says Penny and her husband, Ted. Peggy’s son, a pathologist, and his family live in Colorado. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children, Erica, Bruce, and Gwen.

Peggy’s sister, Ann, is an artist and still lives in Essex, England. Peggy’s sister-in-law, Lucy, lives in Surrey.

In 2014, Peggy came to live at Chelsea Retirement Community, where she continues to live life to the fullest at CRC’s Towsley Village Memory Care Center. On Friday afternoons, Penny brings her two Shih Tzu’s, Snowy and Bacon, to visit Peggy and her neighbors. Every Sunday Peggy has dinner at her daughter’s house along with her granddaughter, now a high school student.

A few weeks ago, Towsley Village staff hosted a tea party in Peggy’s honor to launch the “Life Narrative” project. UMRC dementia care specialist Katie Garvey initiated this project at Towsley Village as part of Eastern Michigan University’s dementia care graduate certificate program in which she is enrolled.

For people with memory loss, “their narrative is often told by others,” says Katie. “The point of this project is to empower them to tell their own story. The shadow box not only helps personalize the resident’s living space, it also provides a visually engaging and non-verbal way for residents and caregivers to get to know each other better.”

Penny is looking forward to sharing copies of her mother’s story with family and friends around the world. “It has been great fun doing this project with my mother and CRC staff.”