Margaret “Peggy” Hopkins Ashton, 94, formerly of Princeton and Ocean City, NJ, passed away peacefully on March 23, 2022 in Fairhope, AL. Born in Dayton, OH, on December 4, 1927, she was a graduate of Oak Park River Forest (IL) High School and Miami University. In addition to raising her family, Peggy was director of food service at The Hun School of Princeton and later spent many years as Field Director at The Gallup Organization.
A longtime member of the Princeton United Methodist Church, she was also a volunteer at Princeton Hospital and continued to serve at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, AL.
At retirement, Peggy and her husband Paul moved to Ocean City, NJ, then traveled the country in their RV before settling in Summerdale, AL. Dating back to their years in Princeton they were avid RV rally masters and participants, particularly if the rally included square dancing.
Peggy was predeceased by her husband Paul in 2017 after 67 years of marriage, her parents Alva and Gladys Hopkins, and her sister Elizabeth Hopkins Schumm. She is survived by her sons Raymond (Jane) of Princeton, NJ, and Charles (Deadra) of Tunbridge, VT, as well as grandchildren Laura (Travis McCleary) of Sydney, Australia, Gregory (Kate) of Pennington, NJ, and Peter (Laura La Placa) of Sunnyvale, CA, and one great-granddaughter.
A private burial will be in Hopewell, NJ.
Debra Kahny Mercantini
Debra Kahny Mercantini, 56, of Robbinsville passed away suddenly on March 27, 2022.
Deb was born and raised in Princeton before moving to West Windsor, where she attended West Windsor-Plainsboro High School. Deb was an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through Womanspace, the Secretary of the Princeton Environmental Commission, former Chairman of the Robbinsville Zoning Board, and was very much involved in the Youth Firesetter Prevention and Intervention Program. She worked for Princeton Township for 25 years.
Daughter of the late Harry and Linda Kahny, Deb is survived by her husband, Louis Mercantini, beloved daughter and son, Michelle Rogers and Tyler Mercantini, sister and brother-in-law, Lisa and Joseph Gorski, niece, Kathryn Gorski, mother-in-law, Joanne Mercantini, and precious granddaughter, Ja’Niyah Harrell. Deb will be remembered especially for her kindness, love of her family, and dear friends, dedication to charity work, and unwavering passion for the New York Yankees and Giants.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, April 7, 2022 from 5-8 p.m. with a service at 7:30 p.m. at The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton, NJ 08542.
In lieu of flowers the family respectfully requests memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society at cancer.org, or to a local charity of your choice.
Ruth Chambers Thornton
Ruth Chambers Thornton passed away peacefully in her home on March 1, 2022 at age 91, a Princeton resident for 65 years.
Ruth grew up in Bronxville N.Y. After Bronxville High, she spent her college years studying journalism and politics at Stephens College then on to the University of Wisconsin. Following a period of graduate study at Columbia University and assignments in New York for Radio Free Europe, Ruth went abroad to study at the University of Grenoble.
It was while she was a researcher and editor for the New York Times Paris Bureau that she met Jim Thornton on a blind date in a romantic French bistro. He proposed that night. They were married for 49 loving years of happiness.
Ruth and Jim moved to Princeton in 1957 where she became avidly active in dozens of community organizations, interests which continued over the next 65 years. Many flared into passions, including a true love of music. It was this passion which manifested in working with the NJSO, joining its Board of Directors in 1979 including a term as President of the Symphony Association’s Princeton/Mercer County Chapter. Ruth’s community involvement revolved around music including but definitely not limited to: Westminster Choir college fundraising, restructuring and endowments, decades with the Trinity Church Choir, and supporting the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the Trenton Children’s Choir, and the Princeton Boychoir.
In addition, Ruth created two musical landmarks. First, the popular “Princeton Summer Sounds” music series which started as a YWCA youth fund project before being taken over by the Princeton Recreational Board. Second, the NJ Pops Concert, Princeton’s earliest 4th of July fireworks display with the NJSO accompanying.
Ruth’s musical philosophy could be summed up in her thought; “Musical performances in any guise allow people to enjoy their shared humanity.”
Trinity Church of Princeton held a special place in Ruth’s heart initiating her involvement in many aspects of the church; being part of the vestry, choir, search committee for a new rector and new choir director, Crisis Ministry, counseling service, prison outreach, Meals on Wheels, rummage sale, Women at the Well, and so much more. Trinity was a bastion of her spirituality and community.
Stuart School of the Sacred Heart also became a place of great joy for Ruth starting in 1981, when her daughter Kim entered ninth grade there. Ruth became involved in various SPA events, and became a “class mom.” She became more involved, next becoming a trustee in 1986 focusing on Stuart’s capital campaign. Ruth was part of a special vision for an enhanced chapel/performance art space at Stuart. Her true love of Stuart was expressed in her admiration for the people of Stuart, the leadership, educators, and staff that shape the future female leaders of our area.
The Princeton Public Library also fascinated Ruth. An avid reader and longtime supporter of the local library and it’s many programs, Ruth and Jim helped spearhead the fundraising and design when the time came for a major renovation into a new Library. Of particular pride was the assertion that the Library remain in downtown Princeton as a hub of culture, learning, and activity despite strong argument to relocate the Library on the edge of Princeton where it would have lost its focus and limited access for many Princetonians.
Some other noteworthy achievements: Ruth worked for the Princeton Packet, the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation, and had been a freelance editor. She embraced the Save the Princeton Playhouse initiative, the local YWCA, Planned Parenthood, and the Historical Society.
Ruth was also known for being a sports enthusiast, enjoying sailing, skiing, and especially golf.
While a world golfer, she was also a longtime member of the Garden State Woman’s Golf Association. Ruth was an eight-time winner of the Woman’s Golf Championship at Springdale Golf Club spread over four decades. She was an exclusive member of the two-time “hole in one” club.
Travel was another of Ruth’s great loves. She, Jim, and best friends globe hopped at least once a year for decades reaching some of the most exotic corners of the world and bringing back the stories to match.
Ruth is mostly remembered for the vast variety of friends she amassed in the Princeton area and far beyond. Nearly each Easter day there was a new person to meet and include in the festivities.
She was truly a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, mentor, and friend to so many.
Ruth was preceded in death by her mother and father, Ruth and Jackson Chambers, and her sister Barbara Schreiner. She is survived by her sister Frances Joswick, her son Andrew S. Thornton, daughter Kim S. Taggart, and her grandchildren Elizabeth S. Taggart and Jeffrey S. Taggart.
Memorial Service: Saturday, April 23 at 11:30 a.m. at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton, NJ.
Memorial contributions may be made to Friends of Herrontown Woods, P.O. Box 1325, Princeton, NJ 08542 (online at https://www.fohw.org/p/donate_14.html) and/or a donation of choice in Ruth’s name.
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