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Bandera’s ‘historian extraordinaire’ passes


Margaret ‘Peggy’ Tobin
Margaret “Peggy” Payne Portwood Tobin, 93, died Tuesday, July 20, at her ranch in Bandera after a brief illness. She was born in Atchison, Kansas, on Oct. 29, 1922, and moved to San Antonio on her seventh birthday – the date of the Great Stock Market Crash.
Her father, Thomas B. Portwood, who had recently received his PhD from Columbia, was hired by the San Antonio Independent School District. He served as district superintendent during the 1940s through early 1960s. Both of Peggy’s parents wrote history textbooks that were used throughout the nation.
Peggy graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio and attended Texas Women’s University before transferring to the University of Texas to study journalism. Shortly before World War II broke out, she met a dashing San Antonio oilman, rancher and lawyer, Don Freeman Tobin, and the couple married on Feb. 1, 1942.
Deeply devoted, Peggy and Don were in love with one another throughout their more than 69 years of marriage. No doubt Don is greeting her in Heaven with a loving embrace.
The couple was blessed with eight children, who became the center of their attention and love. In constant motion caring for her children, Peggy served as PTA president, Cub Scout den leader, carpool driver and substitute schoolteacher. She supported her children in their myriad activities, which included school, sports, art, Children of the American Revolution and church, among other activities.
The San Antonio Express-News recognized Peggy as Homemaker of the Year. While being the “greatest mom” for her children, she also pursued her other passions that included art, historic preservation, writing, bird watching, quilting and literature. The breadth of her knowledge and interests had a profound and positive influence on her children, as well as on the many others who were blessed to know her.
Peggy painted watercolors and made drawings of the McNay Art Institute, Mission San Jose and homes and landscapes in the Texas Hill Country. While serving for years in the San Antonio Conservation Society, including as its president, she became a key leader in the preservation of some of San Antonio’s most admired historic and architectural landmarks.
In the 1960s, she led a successful effort to save the old Ursuline Academy from demolition. It is now the home of the San Antonio School of Art. With others, Peggy led the way in preserving Casa Navarro, Casa Villita, the Steves Homestead and numerous historic homes located in what is now Hemisfair.
In Bandera County, Peggy helped establish the Bandera County Historical Commission and achieved state historical status for the old Jureczki house and Polly’s Chapel – both beautiful examples of Texas limestone and masonry work. For all of this and more, she was given the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Texas State Historical Commission in 2008 and later received a similar award from the Bandera County Historical Commission. Through the years, she also acquired additional accolades from the San Antonio Conservation Society.
For years, Peggy’s weekly columns, chronicling the history and everyday stories of life in the Hill Country, were published in local newspapers. Her submissions were always written with elegance and wit. She was a founding member of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Bandera.
Although Peggy loved her frequent visits to the old Tobin homestead farm in Ireland, from the 1940s until her passing, her favorite place was her cherished ranch. Peggy always remained thankful for the beauty, the wildlife and the peacefulness of the Texas Hill Country.
Peggy Tobin is survived by her children, Don F. Tobin Jr., Timothy S. Tobin, Martha Tobin Bersch, Phillip P. Tobin, Mark T. Tobin, Patrick B. Tobin, Kathleen Tobin Krueger and Ann Tobin Hevenor; 19 grandchildren; and numerous great- and great-great grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Tuesday, July 26, at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church with Rev. Allan Conkling Jr. officiating. A burial service and reception were held immediately afterwards at the Tobin Ranch.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Peggy Tobin to St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, 395 Highway 173 North, Bandera 78003 or to the San Antonio Conservation Society, 107 King William Street, San Antonio 78204.