Virginia Milly Peterson was born in Spearfish, South Dakota, on Oct. 23, 1921, daughter of Orval Gaston Williams and Flora Belle Adele (Parsons) Williams. She graduated from Deadwood High School in 1940.
In the fall of 1941 she took a great leap of faith, leaving the small town of Deadwood, S.D. on a Greyhound bus for the big city of San Francisco. It was there she met David Peterson, a member of the Army Air Corps, and they were married only six months later on Nov. 14, 1943.
After the war they moved to Alameda where Virginia raised two children, daughter Linda and son Dennis, and was active in her community. She was a dedicated member of Trinity Lutheran Church and a behind-the-scenes organizer of “Christmas Tree Lane” on Thompson Avenue where she lived for more than 50 years. She was also an accomplished seamstress and baker and she loved to play bridge.
Virginia is survived by her daughter Linda (Gary) Woehl, granddaughter Elisabeth; her son Dennis (Yolanda) Peterson, grandson Kyle, granddaughter Marieka (Marshall) Greene, great granddaughter Nora. She was preceded in death by her husband of 69 years, David, her parents, her two brothers Van and Donald and her sister Twila.
She will be remembered for her meticulous attention to detail, her strawberry-rhubarb pies, and her surprising sense of humor.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday, June 14, at 11 a.m., at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1323 Central Ave. in Alameda. In lieu of flowers, the family have asked that you make a contribution to your favorite charity in memory of Virginia Peterson.
He led a life of courage, curiosity, determination, independence, solitude, freedom and honesty. Denny was unique from the day of his birth on Sept. 10, 1937, in that he was the completely unexpected third child of Eston Albert McGarraugh and Clella Winifred Cannon McGarraugh of Omaha, Neb. His siblings, Merry-Margaret and Eston Jr., were 20 and 18 years his senior, respectively.
At age three, he lost his father suddenly. Thereafter, he became the “Original Latchkey Kid,” while his mother worked six days a week and they became boarders in the home of relatives. This was the point in his life when the person he would come to be took shape. He learned early on that he enjoyed the freedom, solitude and independence of essentially being the only child of a single parent.
His courage and determination were displayed when for months after his father’s passing, he continued to go to the bus stop in the evening, certain that his father would alight and carry him back home on his shoulders. And maybe, after dinner, they would walk in the same way to the railroad tracks so that he could get “oh, so close” to the whizzing train.
Denny’s courage was also on display when he witnessed his younger cousin being bullied. When it happened repeatedly, he put an end to it with a well-placed brick to the stomach of the tormentor.
Curiosity may or may not have killed the cat, but it certainly killed the beautiful watch that his cousin received as a high school graduation present. Denny really wanted to know how it worked, so he used a hammer, broke it open, studied the workings and then realized that he had no idea how to reassemble it. The watchband was still intact and in the logic of his little boy’s mind, it deserved to be saved, so he carefully hung it on a nail on the porch and buried the remaining pieces. He and his cousin laughed about it only many years later.
Pursuing new interests with gusto was Denny’s way. He was always determined and committed to be the best that he could possibly be. Tennis, wrestling, boxing and basketball were his mainstays throughout his school years. As an adult, tennis maintained its attraction, but he branched out to cycling, running, backpacking and gym workouts. But physical activities were not his only sources of enjoyment. Denny was an avid reader from the Howard Pease series for young boys to John Muir, Mark Twain, Dan DeQuille and Carl Sagan as an adult. After retirement, he immersed himself in astronomy.
Always a lover of cars, particularly low-slung imports, his first car was a red British ralley sports car called a Dellow. Over the years, a Lotus Super 7, an MG TC, an Austin Healy 3000, an Alfa-Romeo GT Veloce and a Corvette followed.
It was when his very new Austin Healy was hit by another car that Denny’s life took a turn. He was not injured, but had his first experience with an insurance adjuster. He was intrigued by the freedom the young man had by not being tied to a desk and meeting new people.
His determination, honesty and curiosity served him well as an insurance investigator/adjustor through 10 years with Aetna, five years with Industrial Indemnity, eight years as an independent investigator with Chalmers & Schneider and 18 years as co-owner with his wife, Michele, of McGarraugh Company.
During the early 1960s, Denny married for the first time and had three daughters, Theresa, Cindy and Kim. Denny was a convincing and entertaining storyteller who found the girls and their friends to be a most appreciative audience. He was very proud of his daughters and the wonderful people they grew up to be. He was equally happy to see them each marry a wonderful man: Jim, Eric and Evan respectively, and become parents to his eight grandchildren: Melissa, Michael, John, Noah, Camden, Pierson, Quinten and Merry-Margaret.
Early in the 1970s, he became intrigued with the possibility of working in radio. With his typical determined commitment, he went to work learning all that he could, got his license and took on unpaid and paid jobs, just to get whatever experience he could. He worked at KPFA in Berkeley, KNBA in Vallejo, KKIS/KDFM in Pittsburg and Walnut Creek and had a brief stint at KJAZ in Alameda.
He did all of that on a part-time basis, while holding down his full-time investigation/adjusting job. When he decided that a career in radio would not provide sufficient income to properly support his family, he simply shifted gears and focused on establishing his own investigative firm after marrying his second wife, Michele, in 1977.
Denny was able to fully enjoy several years of his retirement in Virginia City, Nev., long a place he had loved, before the early symptoms of his Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy Body Syndrome became too intrusive.
With the receipt of the formal diagnosis, the decision was made to return to the Bay Area, where superior medical care is available. It was his great good fortune to be referred to the Memory and Aging Center at University of California San Francisco and have his care undertaken by Dr. Mary DeMay, an angel on earth if ever there was one.
It was through Dr. DeMay that Denny received some early care at the Jewish Home of San Francisco. That led to Denny’s admission there in September 2010, when it was no longer safe for him to remain at home.
The family offers the most heartfelt thanks to the Jewish Home staff for their loving care of Denny for more than three and a half years. From his social worker, Andrea Korsunsky to all of the RNs, LVNs, CNAs, PT aides and clinic staff, so much love, care and energy were given to both Denny and Michele.
A memorial celebration will be held on Sunday, June 29, at the Jewish Home of San Francisco, 302 Silver Ave., from 1 to 4 p.m. Please visit caringbridge.org/visit/
dennymcgarraugh to RSVP.
If you are so inclined, donations may be made in Denny’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org, or to the Jewish Home of San Francisco at jhsf.org.
Catherine C. Williams, a resident of Cincinnati, formerly of Alameda, passed away peacefully of natural causes.
Born to Helen Gertrude and Henry Lane Williams II in Rochester, Minn., Catherine graduated from Pembrook/Brown University in 1958. She was a teacher for many years at Cathedral High School in San Francisco.
She is survived by her brother, Henry Lane Williams III; her sister, Elizabeth Plunkett; her nieces, Wendy Orman, Cindy Williams, Katie Plunkett, Andrea Kellogg, and Katie Orchard; her nephews, Thomas Plunkett, Steven Plunkett, Lane Williams, and Adam Williams; her grand-nieces, Quinn and Arianna Orman; her grand-nephews, Hart and Cole Williams; and many dear friends.
No services will be held per her request. Please visit www.tuftsschildmeyer.com to leave a condolence.