May 10, 2023

Obituaries 5/10/2023

Virginia Finnie

Virginia “Ginnie” Louise Boylan Finnie was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 4, 1934 to Mabel Ethel Brocker and Leo Joseph Boylan.  She passed peacefully in her sleep on May 1, 2023.

Ginnie lived a full and vibrant life, overflowing with family, friends, career, travel, and pursuing avid interests. Married when still a teenager to her seventh grade — and lifelong sweetheart — Bruce Finnie, she moved to the Boston area with Bruce at 17 to attend Boston University in nursing. After being pushed out of that program because she married, she later returned to Boston University while her three children were still young to complete her degree in history, a field that would remain an abiding passion through her life. She supported her family with unwavering vigilance and commitment, generously sustaining her children Matthew and his wife Carol; Ellen and her partner Jaime Basswerner; and Janet and her husband Robert Whiteside; as well as her beloved grandchildren Daniel and Hannah Finnie, Nat Duranceau, and Phoebe and Ellen Whiteside.

While Ginnie was unflagging and devoted in the care of her family, her interests and delight in the broader world took her into many other spheres as well. After moving from the Boston area to Princeton in 1969, through the 1970s, ’80s, and into the ’90s, she was a gifted, admired, and influential high school social studies teacher — and, for a number of years, also department head — at Ewing High School. With a true passion for history and government, and deep dedication to her students, she went the extra mile to spark their interest in history and civic engagement. She took students to Model United Nations events in Washington. D.C., and participated in a teacher exchange in Russia. This exchange was not only professional, as it turned out. Ginnie was matched in the exchange with a Russian teacher who had responsibility for the orphanages in the Russian city of Nizhny-Tagil, and based on the strong relationship she developed with Ginnie, this teacher identified an infant for adoption by Ginnie’s daughter Ellen, who thus became Ginnie’s granddaughter, Nat. Such was Ginnie’s remarkable aptitude for adventure, connection, and care.

Ginnie had a lifelong devotion to watching birds, to travel, and to learning — indeed, the term “lifeong learner” could have been created for her. She managed to complete a master’s in history at Rutgers while she was a mother working full time, and throughout her life, she loved to take courses; after retiring, she relished being able to audit classes at Princeton University.  Ginnie drank in historical and geographical information from her voracious reading and wide travel, and delighted in sharing it. Genuinely fascinated by the world, she kept detailed journals and photo albums of these trips, including rich cultural observations of every place she visited, from Alaska to Australia. Among her many wide-ranging activities and engagements, she participated in an archeological dig, and birded on four continents.

In addition to her enduring marriage with Bruce (they had been married nearly 70 years when he died in 2022), Ginnie maintained dear friendships from all stages of her life, including a close multi-decade friendship with a pen pal in Australia. She was a dedicated volunteer, for many years supporting the Historical Society of Princeton by offering tours of Princeton, and participating actively in the Association for Gravestone Studies. A lifelong patron of the arts, Ginnie was very musical. Following in her admired father’s footsteps (Leo Boylan was a talented tenor, finding his way to a key role in an accomplished singing group, despite the challenges of his immigration from Ireland as a teen) Ginnie sang in an octet as well as played saxophone at Shaw High in Cleveland, and was an avid supporter of classical music and local theater, particularly McCarter Theatre in Princeton. A devoted reader herself, she volunteered with Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic for many years, to make books available to those who could not read the printed word.

Ginnie made and met a multitude of commitments throughout her life, whether for family, friends, students, or the organizations she cared about, including many civic, cultural, and environmental causes. Despite the significant constraints of being a working mother, she managed to express her talents across a wide range of dimensions. She arranged large Boylan/Finnie family gatherings at the Outer Banks that fostered deep family connections, reveled in knitting gorgeous sweaters and afghans for everyone in her family, and sustained family and friends with her mouthwatering homemade bread and jam. She was passionately engaged in word and fact games (especially Jeopardy and the Dictionary Game!), and developed a keen eye as an adept collector of antique clocks, whose history fascinated her.

From her earliest years, Ginnie wanted to see the world and participate in it fully. Her vision was expansive, and she pursued all her dreams, despite the challenge of simultaneously managing a career and motherhood, particularly in the context of her era. She lived her life to the fullest and never expressed any regret or any unfulfilled dream. She was a shining example to all her children and grandchildren, and touched untold numbers of lives through her teaching and travel. To know Ginnie was to admire her — and to benefit from her unwavering commitment to understanding, knowledge, and open-minded exploration of life. We celebrate her fortitude, her kindness, her remarkable capacity and talents, her deep and broad engagement, and the gifts she has left to her family and to so many others through her dedicated care and concern, and through her outstanding example of a life well-lived.

Predeceased by her husband Bruce Finnie, and her brother Leo “Bud” Boylan, Ginnie leaves a brother, David Boylan, and her children and grandchildren. Services will be private.

Those who would like to honor Ginnie’s life and legacy may donate to the Historical Society of Princeton.


Peter Hegener

Peter Wilhelm Ottocar Hegener died on April 27, 2023 in West Hartford, CT, after a brief and valiant battle with esophageal cancer. He was 84 years of age. Rachel Bommer Kuhe, his wife of 19 years, was by his side.

Peter was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1938. WWII began the following year, and for the rest of his life he was defined by his childhood wartime experiences. Because of the extraordinary bravery of his mother, Henny Sibylla Hegener, in sheltering an American pilot who had parachuted on to their farmland at the end of the war, Peter and his family were given safe passage to the United States aboard the RMS Mauretania in December 1950.

Peter attended Brooklyn schools and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School as the President of his class. Among his many other accolades during that time, he proudly earned his Eagle Scout Badge. He went on to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

After several engineering positions, Peter was offered a job as Head of Career Services at Princeton University. It was there that he hatched the idea of creating a compiled reference book on graduate schools, a then-novel idea. In 1964, he left the University to co-found and serve as CEO of the new publication, Peterson’s Guides, Inc. Peterson’s would eventually take him to every educational institution in the United States and beyond. While visiting China in 1978 as a part of a delegation of U.S. publishers, Peter was informed that Peterson’s Guides were the single most popular reference books in the Chinese university library system. Over the next 30 years, the company expanded from publishing guides to graduate schools to a catalogue that included both reference books and data services covering all facets of education. In addition to its historical products, the company had created and was preparing to launch a revolutionary product that would have allowed high school graduates to submit college applications online several years before the origin of the Common App.

With the 1995 purchase of Peterson’s by the Thompson Corporation, Peter became head of mergers and acquisitions for the company’s burgeoning Education Division. Upon retiring from Thompson, Peter turned his focus to developing real estate projects in Princeton for several years. He had served on a number of educational boards throughout his career, and his retirement allowed him to pay particular attention to his role as a board member of The International House in New York City, at Columbia University, and the American University of Cairo Publishing Arm in Cairo, Egypt. He also continued to enjoy the remarkable reputation his unique idea spawned for the educational enrichment of others.

Peter Hegener will be remembered for his boundless energy and positive outlook. His engaging laugh and contagious smile would light up a room, and he always took an interest in learning more about the people surrounding him. His love for skiing, photographic safaris in Africa, gardening in Princeton where his 25,000 daffodils were admired each spring, fishing at his family home in the Beaverkill Valley, and vacationing with his young family in Edgartown always gave him joy. During the last 20 years, Peter relished his time at Rachel’s family home in West Chop on Martha’s Vineyard, where they spent much of their time together. Peter embraced West Chop, as his friends and neighbors embraced him and could be found on the water in his favorite Whaler “Winnetou,” working in the gardens overlooking Vineyard Sound, walking on the beaches and paths with his devoted dog Fritzie and enjoying the view of the sunset from their porch. Considered to be a consummate gentleman by all who met him, Peter was proud to be a German who became a respected United States Citizen and was forever grateful for the educational advantages and entrepreneurial opportunities afforded him as an
immigrant to this country.

In addition to his wife Rachel, Peter is survived by his former wife Karen (Casey) Lambert – the mother of his two children, Holly Hegener (Jon Cummings) and Peter Hegener (Allison); and Rachel’s children, Jonathan Kuhe (Carolyn), Tucker Kuhe (Caitlin), and Abbey Kuhe. He is also survived by his and Rachel’s beloved grandchildren Sam, Max, Josie, and James Cummings, Lily and Peter Hegener, Katie, Grace, and James Kuhe, Evelyn and Betsy Kuhe, and Bear and Bommer Gilpin. He was inordinately proud of each of them.

A Memorial Service celebrating Peter’s life will be held in Princeton, New Jersey, at a later date. If you would like to celebrate Peter’s memory, please consider a donation to The Polly Hill Arboretum, (508) 693-9426.


Marian Shaw Tignor

Marian Shaw Tignor passed away at her home in Princeton, NJ, on December 15, 2022 at age 89.

Marian was born December 14, 1933 in Eden, NY, the youngest child and only daughter of Malin and Anne Shaw. She was introduced to music at an early age, and soon began playing the piano and clarinet, joining her parents and three brothers in “The Family Orchestra.” Marian graduated from Eden Central High School in 1952 where she sang in the chorus and played clarinet in the band. After graduation she attended The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. At college she was a proud member of the Fighting Scots marching band and earned a bachelor’s degree in music, graduating in 1956.

She met Bob Tignor at Wooster, and they married soon after graduation. They settled in Princeton, spending 66 years together. Marian became an active member of the Princeton Unitarian Church, where she played piano and sang in the choir. She also taught piano lessons throughout her life. She believed, “without music, life would be a mistake.”

Marian loved nature and introduced her three children to it early on. Herrontown Woods was one of her favorite parks and the family came to know the trails by heart. In winter Marian took evening walks after a snowfall with her daughter Laura and their dog Angus. She said the cold weather and snow reminded her of her childhood in Eden. She took joy in appreciating the simple things life had to offer whether it was a good cup of coffee or watching the birds outside her kitchen window.

Marian was always ready and enthusiastic for an outdoor adventure, and never lost her playfulness. When Lake Carnegie froze during an unusually cold winter, Marian wasn’t going to let her age, then in her mid-70s, or the fact that she hadn’t skated in years, stop her. She gleefully rounded up her family and giggled as they made their way out onto the ice, all of them clinging to each other for balance.

As her children grew up, Marian turned her attention to other passions. To support her son David, she became an advocate for mental health and worked and volunteered for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey. She believed that through education, support, advocacy, and raising public awareness about mental illness, it would be possible to overcome the stigma frequently attached to it. Marian also took up journalism, becoming a reporter for the Trenton Times. In her “Times Around Town” column, she covered local cultural and social events. Reporting played to Marian’s strengths. She was naturally social and interacted easily with people. She was a joyful and central member of her group of friends, frequently organizing gatherings and planning trips in order to keep the women connected for decades. They would pile into a station wagon and drive into Times Square to buy last-minute Broadway tickets, they toured Tuscany, visited museums, met for breakfast, walked through the woods, and shared their lives with each other. A friend stated of Marian’s role, “It was love.”

But her most valuable gift was to her husband and children. She was the cornerstone of the family. She supported her husband, a historian at Princeton University, throughout his career by moving to Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and London with him for year-long sabbaticals. In each location she created a new home for her family. Remarkably, her first trip to Egypt was when her daughter Laura was only 6 months old. During another sabbatical to Kenya, she gave birth to her daughter Sandra, driving herself to the hospital while Bob was conducting research in the field. Each destination required her to navigate a new city, learn a new language, enroll her children in school, and help them adjust to the many challenges of living in a new culture.

Marian was predeceased by her husband Bob, who passed away just six days prior to her death; her son, Jeffrey David Tignor, who died in 2003; and her three brothers Ronald, Burdette, and Carlton. She is survived by her daughters Laura Tignor and Sandra Selby and husband Trevor Selby; four grandchildren, Hilde Mckernan, Sam Cobb, Owen and Isabel Selby; and two great-grandchildren Hunter and Harper McKernan. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on June 28 at the Unitarian Church of Princeton.


Joan Alpert

On April 29, 2023, Joan Alpert passed away in her home at the age of 98 1/2, following a brief illness. She was surrounded by her family.

Joan was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and graduated from Bennington College where she distinguished herself as an artist. She was happily married to Robert Alpert who predeceased her in 2002. Together they had three sons, five grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Joan flew airplanes when she was young and drove her car until she was 95. She was active in her chapter of Community without Walls, hosting monthly game nights and afternoon teas.

Joan was a resident of Princeton for over half a century. She was a legendary real estate agent — helping pioneer changes along U.S. 1 that transformed sod farms into offices and hotels. She found homes for generations of Princeton families and sold her last house at the age of 92.

Joan was a loving and formidable force every day of her life. Her doors were open to everyone. Just two weeks before her passing, she hosted over 30 family members for a magnificent home cooked meal. And three days before her death, when the hospice worker arrived at the house, Joan accurately greeted her with “Didn’t I show you a house 34 years ago?”… flooring everyone in the room.

She lived fearlessly, creatively and generously.

Joan Alpert was an inspiration and will be missed by an enormous community.

She is buried in Princeton Cemetery along with the ashes of her husband.

The day of her death she sent down a double rainbow from heaven.

Funeral services and burial were held on April 30 at Princeton Cemetery.

Arrangements are by Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel. For condolences please visit Joan’s obituary page at