Marguerite ‘Peggy’ Atmore Mason had an amazingly rich and colorful life filled with triumph and tragedy.
Born in Edina, Minnesota to Marie and Clifford Olsen on May 27, 1926, Marguerite’s happy-go-lucky early childhood was centered around horses, friends, parties and a large extended family. Her mother was a Rerat, a large and influential clan that was known for their colorful personalities and deep Catholic faith. Peggy’s father Cliff, a talented entrepreneur, expanded a single car dealership into a thriving block of downtown Minneapolis businesses that included a restaurant, parking lot and service station.
After Peggy’s sister Patty was born, Cliff continued to grow the company until he fell ill in the early 1940s and was bedridden. With her older brother Donald in military service and the dark time of war upon them, Marie leaned on a now sixteen-year-old Peggy to shuttle her to the family office where the two women helped manage the large staff and run the multiple businesses. While it marked an end to childhood innocence, Peggy quickly learned how to take charge; a lesson that would be so powerful in the years ahead.
A good student, she graduated high school from Northrup Collegiate and enrolled in the University of Minnesota. Going to college in her hometown, Peggy continued to attract attention. With her movie-star looks, she was a classic debutante, modeling at fashion shows and often making the newspapers for her stylish appearances at charity events.
She pledged Alpha Phi, and her fellow sorority sister Jean Atmore quickly fixed her up on a date with Jean’s brother William, a young Naval doctor in training. The perfect match was made.
Once the dashing doctor and his bride tied the knot on January 10, 1948, they moved around the country while Bill completed his Navy duties on land and sea. Later, they based themselves in Rochester, MN, to allow him to train as an orthopedist at the legendary Mayo Clinic. A growing family now included two sons, Mark William and William George Atmore.
Anxious to move back to his beloved hometown of Duluth, Bill accepted a position at the Duluth Clinic. By the early 60s, the family included three more children, Mary Jean, Michael James and Kathleen Patricia Atmore.
With a deep interest in sports, Bill was honored to be chosen as the physician for the 1960 Olympic Hockey team. Peggy joined her husband for what turned out to be an amazing, historic Gold Medal win at the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics. It was a pivotal moment for the young couple, who came back to Duluth with even bigger dreams for career and family.
While Bill’s practice grew, Peggy devoted herself to raising her children and her charitable endeavors. Her sixth child, Thomas Charles was born in 1963.
Outside the family, Peggy made time for a number of causes, from the Junior League to St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary, the beginning of even bigger philanthropic ambitions.
Peggy embraced her husband’s love of sports, Together the family enjoyed sailing on Lake Superior in the summer and skiing in the Midwest and west in the winter. She was particularly proud when the Atmore’s were named “Ski Family of the Year” in 1965. In the years after her children went on to become champion ski racers, ski instructors and skilled tennis players. She continued the sporting life into her 90s, playing tennis regularly and skiing at Spirit Mountain.
During a sailing trip on the family’s beloved ketch ‘Indigo’, Peggy and Bill bought a large parcel of land north of Two Harbors and the couple built a strikingly modern cabin on a dramatic cliff overlooking Lake Superior in 1973. Each had a childhood love affair with Lake Superior’s North Shore and it was there that they felt most at home.
Sadly, tragedy cut the dream short in 1975 when Bill died suddenly of a heart attack at 52. Just three short years later, Mark was involved in a fatal car accident on London Road. The twin tragedies rocked the family.
After Bill’s passing, Peggy took charge, creating a new career for herself as the first Patient Advocate for the Duluth Clinic. At the same time, she threw herself into a round of charities, including serving as State Chairman of the American Heart Fund and a building contributor of the Nat G Polinsky Memorial Rehabilitation Center. Always interested in fashion, Peggy embraced a second career when she became the first in-house stylist for the Glass Block Department store.
In 1978, her life changed dramatically when she married Sidney Mason, and became a stepmother to Christopher, Elizabeth, Emily, Jane, Mary and Robert Mason. The Atmore’s and the Mason’s grew up with each other and friends now became family.
The couple split their time between Duluth and Port Charlotte, Florida. Peggy kept up with a host of civic and charitable causes, including founding the Atmore Memorial ski race in 1978. Forty years later, the event, a tribute to William and Mark Atmore, continues to be a major stop on the amateur ski racing circuit.
In addition, she served on the Tweed Gallery Art Advisory Board and authored a book about the history of The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. She was an active supporter of Duluth Cathedral High School, founding the Gingerbread Shop, a store that supported the school.
Always interested in continuing her education, Peggy achieved her Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1995.
After Sid died in 2009, Peggy adopted a golden retriever named Honey, who served as her loyal companion.
A seasoned traveller, she often visited her children and grandchildren. In 2016, she marked her 90th birthday by travelling to Windsor Castle to celebrate in the pomp and ceremony of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday celebrations.
Independent to the end of her life, Peggy lived at home with Honey, surrounded by her children Bill, Mary, Michael, Kathleen and Tom, her stepchildren Christopher, Elizabeth, Emily, Jane, Mary and Robert, 16 grandchildren and dear friends that included Elizabeth Mason & Lane Smith.
She passed away August 2nd at Solvay Hospice House in Duluth.
A visitation will be held 5pm – 7pm on Thursday, August 9th at Dougherty Funeral Home. 600 E. 2nd St. Duluth, MN 55805, visitation will continue from 10AM until the Mass of Christian Burial will be held at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary on Friday, August 10th at 11AM followed by a lunch to celebrate Peggy’s life at the Kitchi Gammi Club. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be directed to Amberwing-Center for Youth & Family Well-Being c/o Miller-Dwan Foundation 502 E. 2nd Street, Duluth, MN 55805. Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home. 218-727-3555.
Miller Dwan Foundation
502 East 2nd Street, Duluth MN 55805