ROCHESTER - Margaret Almira Tilson, known by her friends as Mat, and by her colleagues as Marge, died on Thursday, October 6, 2016. Born in Manchester, N.H., on September 1, 1923, Mat was the daughter of Catherine and Claude D. Tilson. She was predeceased by her sister, Janet Tilson; her brother, Claude Douglas Tilson Jr.; her dear friend Janet Cooper; and her beloved companion Leona Keith.
She was a graduate of Manchester Central High School, and attended college at Averett University and William and Mary in Virginia. Mat first began her professional career as a social worker for the State of New Hampshire, working with children and families. An adept storyteller, Mat often told stories about this time in her life. It was clear that Mat was deeply moved by the challenges that these often financially stressed families faced. Her passion and caring made her a dedicated advocate, but she quickly admitted that she found the work both rewarding and heartbreaking. Though she would eventually decide to leave the field of social work and pursue other interests, her experiences as a social worker would always inform her sense of social justice.
Mat identified herself as a "problem solver" which was often challenging when working with people and personalities as a social worker, but perhaps more easily satisfied when working with machines. Thus she entered into a field that intrigued her for the rest of her professional life - engineering. She inherited her engineering abilities from her father, Claude, who was a mechanical engineer, and from her grandfather who was the Chief Engineer at the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester. Starting as a worker on the plant floor of Pratt and Whitney-United Technologies in East Hartford, Conn., Mat worked her way up the ladder to become a mechanical engineer and executive. She was one of the few women, and perhaps the only one, to hold the positions she did during her career. Mat was extremely proud to be a part of the Pratt and Whitney team for more than 30 years, and led her crew to be one of the most efficient and productive within the larger Pratt organization. In the 1980s, Pratt recruited her to help open a new plant in North Berwick, Maine. Since she was nearing retirement, Mat was hesitant to get involved, but she could not say "no" to Pratt's offer so she moved to Rollinsford, N.H., to be part of the launch team. She was happy to return to N.H., to be closer to her family, and she greatly enjoyed her final years at the North Berwick plant. Mat relished sharing tales of how she persevered in a very male-dominated industry. No doubt, in the aerospace business from the 1950s to the 1980s, it took a considerable amount of strength, patience, determination and diplomacy to succeed as a woman.
Mat had a deep faith throughout her life. As a young person, she was a member of the Manchester, First Congregational Church. When she first moved back to New Hampshire, she became a member of the South Berwick, Maine, First Parish Federated Church where she took on various leadership roles. Years later she joined the First Parish United Church of Christ of Somersworth, N.H., and sang in the church choir. She remained a committed member of this congregation even as she became more housebound. She immensely enjoyed Pastor Mark Rideout's visits with her in her home.
Mat enjoyed traveling throughout the East Coast, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. A long road trip with stops at historical places was her passion. She enjoyed landscaping her yard, tending her vegetable garden, and cared deeply about preserving the environment. Mat loved collecting things such as stamps, coins and cuff links. She amassed an extensive collection of beautiful antique lamps. As a child, she enjoyed skiing, tennis and golf. She delighted in sharing stories of her athletic feats and resulting injuries.
In her later years, Mat was blessed to share her adventures and life with her dear friend and devoted companion Leona Keith, who died in 2009.
Mat is survived by her two nieces, Adair Tilson of Hooksett, N.H., and her partner Daniel Wilder; as well as Victoria Tilson and her wife Jeanine Bedard of Greenfield, Mass. Mat is also survived by her nephews Arden Bromley of Los Angeles California and Bruce Keith of Oregon as well as many cousins throughout the US and Canada. Mat's constant companion and buddy, Mackenzie (her poodle), is now in the care of her niece, Tori.
The family would like to acknowledge the loving care and dedication of Elizabeth (Betty) Harris, Mat's friend and caretaker. Betty's devoted care allowed Mat to remain in the comfort of her own home and to maintain the independence that was so important to her. We are enormously grateful to Betty.
Throughout her long life Mat was fortunate to be blessed with many dear friends. During her residence in Rochester, she enjoyed the friendship and support of many of her condo community members. Her loyal friendship, wise counsel and wit will be missed by many.