Obituary of Margaret “Peggy” Swan Levine
October 9, 2017
Margaret "Peggy" Swan Levine passed Monday, September 25, 2017, at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. She was 72. Peggy was born to Robert and Martha D. Swan in San Francisco December 12, 1944. She grew up in Kensington, Calif.; graduated from Newport Harbor High School in Costa Mesa, Calif.; and attended the University of Oregon in Eugene, San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State, graduating with a Fine Arts degree in Printmaking.
Peggy was a student at a time of social upheaval and a participant in the activism surrounding her. She took a lead role in using art to raise awareness about crucial issues of the day, including opposition to the war in Vietnam. Peggy was a longtime member of the California Society of Printmakers and her etchings and watercolors have been exhibited in many northern California shows and galleries. At the request of the Library of Congress, Peggy contributed work to its permanent collection. In 1967, Peggy met Howard Levine, a fellow student at SF State, and they married the following year. In 1975, Peggy and Howard and their young family moved to Grass Valley, where they purchased the Old Jones Hospital, which they converted to a bed-and-breakfast, the Swan Levine House. Within a short time, Peggy became active in a range of local issues, including arts, politics, education and the environment.
Peggy and Howard and others purchased the historic Holbrooke Hotel in downtown Grass Valley in 1990. Peggy became the manager of the hotel in 1995 and quickly demonstrated an ability to master complex management, personnel and financial challenges – skills she applied to many other endeavors.
Peggy was a natural-born leader and community organizer. She played key roles in the creation of the Nevada County Arts Council, the Nevada County Jewish Community Center, the Grass Valley Center for the Arts, and the Nevada County campus of Sierra College. She was foreman of the Nevada County Grand Jury and elected to the Nevada Union High School Board. Peggy also served as a board member of the Foothill Theatre Company and commissioner on the Grass Valley Historical Commission. For over 30 years, she was a member of Grass Valley Ladies Relief Society. In 2004, a friend asked Peggy to help clean up broken glass around the North Star House, a historic but neglected local landmark designed by Julia Morgan, architect of Hearst Castle. This marked the beginning of a passion and purpose that lasted the rest of Peggy's life. The North Star House inspired her vision to rehabilitate a threatened treasure and create a standout cultural event center. Hundreds of volunteers have contributed expertise and thousands of hours toward making Peggy's vision a reality. Today, The North
Star House is the home of the Nevada County Growers Market, a site for fundraising events like the South Yuba River Citizens League's Wild for the River, and a popular wedding venue.
In January, Peggy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and enrolled in a clinical trial at the UC Davis Medical Center, which was supported locally by the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Cancer Center. Peggy viewed this development as another opportunity to enlarge her circle of friendship and build community. At both institutions, she received excellent treatment. Peggy's family wishes to recognize everyone who contributed to her care.
Peggy is survived by Howard, her husband of 49 years, and her three children and their spouses, all of Sacramento: Nathaniel and his wife Tiffany, Michael and his wife Maia, and Mara and her husband Chris. She has seven grandchildren: Alex, Phoebe and Sadie; Martin and Malcolm; Layla and C.J. She is also survived by her brother Chris Swan.
The home Peggy and Howard created in Grass Valley is also a home for friends who became members of the family and survive her: Greg and Alexis Guagnano, Barry Owen, and Posy Gering.
The celebration of Peggy's life will be held Saturday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. at The North Star House at 12075 Auburn Rd. in Grass Valley. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Peggy's favorite causes, The North Star Historic Conservancy and The Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation.
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