HAMILTON – Peggy S. Ratcheson, 80, of Hamilton, MT passed away Saturday, May 6, 2023, at her home after surviving a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was born Feb. 6th, 1943, in St. Louis, MO.
Peggy was raised in Clayton, MO and graduated from Clayton High School in 1961. She attended Miami University in Oxford Ohio for two years, then began a peripatetic university journey which included University of California Berkley, and upon her engagement, Washington University in St. Louis. She married then-medical student Robert A. Ratcheson, moving to Chicago in 1964, and graduated from Roosevelt University in Chicago in 1965.
Her next stop was Baltimore, MD where she taught English at Dundalk High School. In 1967 she relocated to Bethesda, MD, accompanying Bob who was working at the National Institutes of Health. During that time, Peggy earned her master’s degree in English at the University of Maryland.
In 1969, she and Bob moved to St. Louis where she taught English at Ladue High School. In 1970 they adopted a son, Alexey, and from 1972 to 1973, they lived in Sweden. While there, she dedicated herself to an intensive study of the Swedish language. Upon returning to St. Louis in 1973, Peggy and Bob adopted a daughter, Rachael, and Peggy taught English at the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
The family moved to Shaker Heights, OH in 1981 where Peggy taught Swedish and English at Lakeland Community College. In 1986 she was awarded a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Washington University. Her thesis focused on contemporary American food habits, particularly the rising gourmet movement. During her thesis work, Peggy met many of the major food critics and writers in the United States. The knowledge she gained from them allowed her to explore many of the special, but often lesser-known restaurants throughout the US.
Peggy began teaching in the Anthropology department at Cleveland State University in 1986 and had her second daughter, Abigail, in 1987.
From 1995-2003 she worked as an Associate Curator of Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. While there, she dedicated herself to the exploration of other cultures through far ranging field work. Notably, Peggy made a trip deep into the Amazon where she and her colleagues made the first contact with the Brazilian Waimiri-Atroari tribe after decades of their isolation. This led to a visit by tribal chiefs to her home in Cleveland. Her field work carried her to such places as Burkina Faso, Timbuktu, Mali, and Chiapas, Mexico, among many other countries. In the United States, Peggy worked with the native tribes of Owens Valley to study indigenous basket weaving techniques, culminating in the publication of the book Weaving a Legacy: Indian Baskets and the People of Owens Valley, California.
From 2004-2008 she worked as the Director of Education and Community Outreach at the Cleveland Artists Foundation.
In 2008 Peggy moved to Hamilton, MT, fulfilling her lifelong dream of living in Montana which was formed during her teenage years at a riding camp at Flathead Lake. Peggy immersed herself in conservation activities in the Bitterroot Valley, including serving on the board of Bitterroot Trout Unlimited where she was Secretary for seven years. In 2010 she joined the board of the Bitterroot Land Trust where she became President from 2021-2022.
Peggy loved the outdoors, venturing every year on a women-only trip with the “Bitterroot Babes” – a group of her friends who hiked, camped, rode, and pack tripped throughout Montana. She was an avid fly fisher and rafter, often rowing her family down the Bitterroot River. Peggy had a never-ending sense of humor and adventure, exploring foreign countries through her work or while traveling with her husband. She introduced each of her children to the wonders of the American West and instilled in them an appreciation for the beauty of America’s wilderness. Peggy passionately believed in the causes she championed and dedicated herself to leaving the world a better place.
She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Robert A. Ratcheson, MD, her son Alexey Ratcheson, daughter Abigail Ratcheson, brother Jerome Steiner Jr., cousins Jack and Shelley Meyer, and beloved golden retriever Sophie.
A memorial service for friends and family will be held this summer in Hamilton. The family suggests that any memorials be made to the Bitterroot Land Trust, 170 S 2nd St, Hamilton, MT 59840.
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