Margaret Waddey Darby ’79

 Margaret Darby died peacefully at home in the early morning of April 15 after living with lung cancer for about a year. She was 69 years old.

Margaret was born in South Boston, Virginia to newspaper writer/editor/owner Harwell M. Darby and homemaker Caroline Boxley Darby. Both parents had died by the time Margaret was 15 and she enrolled at Chatham Hall, a boarding school for young women where she acquired life-long friendships.

After graduation she spent time in Europe, studying languages accompanied by adventures which included hanging out with Greek sailors in Italy and working in a Normandy coastal restaurant that catered to fishermen coming in from the early morning catch. Eventually she returned to earn her bachelors at Davidson College as a music major with a piano specialty. She was always involved in college theater in various roles, including playing Rosalind, the heroine of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

After college she considered and then abandoned a career path in music, instead spending a year in Birmingham, Alabama as a bilingual secretary for a French company. She then set her sights on learning simultaneous interpretation, enrolling at Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in California (now part of Middlebury College.) After earning her masters there she again embarked for Europe. She added German and Italian, spending time in Saarbrücken and Florence, and interpreted from her three foreign languages into English. (She had passable Spanish, too, and had an interest in Mandarin.)

A resident of Brussels, Belgium for 10 years, she was was employed as a free-lancer, primarily working for the EC, the forerunner of the European Union. Returning to the U.S., she enrolled at Drexel University where she earned a masters in library science. A resident of Newark, Delaware she worked for the New Castle County Libraries, especially the Newark Free Library, and later the Cecil County, Maryland public schools, first Elk Neck Elementary and then Northeast High School. There she she revived the school newspaper and encouraged young writers, both the talented and those who hardly imagined they could write for the public.

In terms of Margaret’s own writing, she became a founding writer of Delaware Arts Info blog, publishing pieces on both music and theater. Margaret retired from school librarian work in 2015 and moved to Philadelphia with her partner, musician Chuck Holdeman. She continued writing for various arts blogs, especially the Broad Street Review. A member of the German Society of Pennsylvania, she was in the Buchclub which read and discussed German literature; Margaret also wrote articles about the society’s chamber music series for its quarterly newsletter. Remaining an avid pianist Margaret practiced everyday and played chamber music for fun. She and Chuck sustained each other with Bach sonatas during the pandemic. In her last year Margaret kept going despite the onset of an aggressive lung cancer.

She is survived by her partner Chuck Holdeman, her brother Sam Darby and his wife Jeanie, her sister Caroline Darby Wehner and her husband Bill, and by various cousins, especially on the Darby side, and also on the Boxley side. She also became close with Chuck’s five children and one grandson. Margaret was a lively, fun, and determined, independent person. She and Chuck were often seen walking hand in hand when she would regale him with a seemingly limitless repertoire of songs in all her languages. She was charitable and became interested in philanthropy. While she had no one favorite charity, any donations friends might make to charities and non-profits in her memory are encouraged. Margaret will be remembered by many gatherings of friends and her ashes will be interred at the family plot in Evergreen Burial Park, Roanoke, Virginia