Deborah Mayhew Peckham


Deborah Mayhew Peckham was born in Westerly, R.I., on August 5, 1949. She was the daughter of Ernestine Mayhew Peckham and Arthur Ellsworth Peckham Jr. of Westerly and Chilmark.

Debbi leaves her family, siblings Thomas Peckham of Westerly, and Prudence Marsh and her husband Elliott Marsh of Ashfield, nieces Alexandra Moncy and her husband, William Moncy, of Pittsfield, and their young sons, Arlen and Benjamin; Samantha Marsh and her husband Julian Nickerson of Leverett, Carrie Welch of Vineyard Haven, and Katherine Welch of Amherst, and brother-in-law Frank Welch of Vineyard Haven, husband of Debbi’s sister, Virginia Welch, who died in 2002. Debbi was greatly loved, and will be missed by her family and friends.

A short time before her passing, Debbi was happy to have the opportunity to write about her life and her loved ones:

Deborah Mayhew Peckham died on Sunday, June 23, 2019, as in most things, on her own terms.

Not everyone gets to write her own obituary, but it’s important that I have the opportunity to speak to what and who were the most significant in my life. My siblings — Tom, Ginny, and Prudy. My four beautiful, unique nieces — Carrie, Katherine, Alee, and Sam. The two best dogs anyone could have — Dagger the Lab with a heart nearly as big as his body, and Beau the cockapoo. Everyone should love life as much as Beau. It makes me smile to envision his new life with Sam and Julian in the fields of western Massachusetts, ears flying as he runs, hanging with people — he so loves people. My two brother-in-laws, Frank and Elliott (Bub) who took such great care of my sisters, and to Alee and Sam’s husbands, Bill and Julian — they are wonderful men; my nieces chose well. My two great-nephews, Arlen and Benjamin, who always make me smile. To my friends over the years, especially those at my side until the end — you taught me what loyalty and unselfish, unconditional love truly are. I so appreciated your support, the laughs and cries. You know who you are. Thank you. Remember me when you lift a glass on a ladies’ night, and smile to the men in my life. I’ve loved a few as well as I could, liked and respected most, learned from you all. I’m glad I spent time with you. To my caregivers, whose skill, caring, and kindness was my support in the hardest of times, I appreciate each of you. I know how hard your jobs are. Never think your work doesn’t matter — it has meant the world to me. It is important. To neighbors, you have helped me when I couldn’t do it alone. Thank you.

I’ve had lifelong passions that have allowed my experiences. Envisioning and realizing the potential for my life has been satisfying. I have spent my career in beautiful places — West Point at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and 20 years as a manager and strategic planner with the U.S. Coast Guard’s R+D Center in New London, Conn. Always outnumbered by male colleagues, but rarely outmatched — something I took pride in. Colleagues became friends! 

Travel has taken me to five of the seven continents, and given me some of my most precious memories. My last big trip, a solo safari to Tanzania, was a childhood dream realized. I thank my sisters for their generosity in allowing me to share a trip to Alaska with Alee, where we helicoptered to a glacier, then dogsledded, and rafted on a glacial lake. Sam and I shopped Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, and Katherine and I experienced Carnevale in Venice, gondolas through the canals, and walked through the wonders of Florence and Rome. Carrie journeyed with me through one of my longest, darkest nights, and I treasured our time together. 

Books have been lifelong friends, informing, inspiring. I’ve seldom been without pen and paper or pencil and drawing pad — sitting in nature among the critters and beauty of nature has always been one of my greatest pleasures. I sit writing this in a drop of sun, and it feeds my spirit. I have found satisfaction in challenges, learning from everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve experienced. I’ve been in situations that I didn’t enjoy in the moment, but was always glad that I had. I found wisdom in unlikely places. I’ve enjoyed discovering talents and skills in those around me, and encouraging them in strengths they weren’t aware of in themselves. I’ve particularly supported women who, given the resources, education, and encouragement, will lift the lives of their children, communities, and ultimately the world. 

I have been challenged but blessed. I am grateful. I have no regrets.