Virginia Briggs Peters

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, September 11, 2012


DEER ISLE, ME — Virginia Briggs Peters died, Sept. 6, 2012,  peacefully one day after her 97th birthday at the Island Nursing Home on Deer Isle. Virginia was born in Charlotte, N.C.
She graduated from Chatham Hall School in 1932 and then attended Converse College in South Carolina. She enjoyed riding, teaching riding and training horses and then sailing and racing small boats before being steered toward her life’s love: a career in science. Virginia was married to John Peters for five years and then went on to earn a BS in Biology in 1952 from George Washington University, then a Ph.D. in Anatomy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1956. In 1958, she was appointed director of her own laboratory in electron microscopy at New York University until she moved to Woods Hole, Mass., in 1968, where she continued her research under the auspices of The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Biological Laboratory. During that time she and Virginia Biddle raced her 33-foot cruising sailboat in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket islands. Virginia also much enjoyed taking out her little lobster boat on fishing expeditions, was a marvelous cook, loved classical music and Dixieland jazz, and she wrote well. All her friends were willing victims of her laser-like debating skills. She was partial to a few selected dogs and most cats, prominent among whom was her cat, “Pushkin.” Virginia held memberships in six professional societies and authored some 15 scientific publications.
While she was in Woods Hole, her only two brothers died and her elderly mother came to live with her; Virginia went to great lengths to make Miss Bessie happy in her remaining years despite a series of small strokes. Finally, Virginia’s Southern background won out and in 1988 she moved to Washington, N.C., where she bought a lovely big house on the Pamlico River and added a whole new group of appreciative friends. Once again, she undertook to share her home with an older friend, who was alone in Washington, D.C., totally deaf and crippled by arthritis. Virginia gave Laura a wonderful last few years until Laura also suffered an incapacitating stroke. Virginia lived alone until 2009, when, fighting it all the way, she could no longer conceal the fact that she was unable to keep track of her car keys or remember her own address. She then moved into Dr. Biddle’s Blue Hill home for the next 2½ years, with help from a devoted group of local caregivers, particularly Lynne Strasenburgh, until a couple of strokes rendered home care too difficult. Nursing home care this time made sense.
Virginia is survived by a first cousin once removed, Helena Estes of New Haven, Conn.; her long-time friends, Dr. Virginia Biddle of Blue Hill, George and Jain Kelly and Philip and Helene Brandt of New York City, and many others who will miss her extraordinary mind, sense of humor and generosity…before Alzheimer’s disease robbed us of the old Virginia.
Charitable donations may be made to the Island Nursing Home, 587 N. Deer Isle Road, Deer Isle, ME 04627. Alternatively: Alzheimer’s Disease Research, 22512 Gateway Center Dr., Clarksburg, MD 20871.
Arrangements in care of Jordan-Fernald, 141 South Street, Blue Hill.
Condolences may by expressed at