Margaret Tileston died from complications of Covid-19 in Palo Alto, Calif. She was 96.

She was born in Shanghai, China, to William and Anne Hoffmann, where she and her brother, Bill, grew up. In 1939 the family moved to the Philippines, where they spent the World War II years in a Japanese internment camp until they were liberated in 1945. She kept a secret diary during those years, and never held a grudge against the people of Japan. After the war, Margaret and her brother graduated from Purdue University.

Margaret returned home to the Philippines, where she worked for the U.S. government as a secretary and entered the whirlwind social life of post-war Manila. She soon met and married a dashing young international banker with the soul of a poet, Peter. After the children were born, the family lived in New York, Mumbai, London, and Paris, as Peter’s career moved them around the world. In each place they lived, Margaret excelled at creating a warm and welcoming home for family and friends, while fully engaging in the new culture—- especially the food. Her favorite foods were always a chocolate bar or a hot fudge sundae. When Peter retired in 1980, they split their time between Menlo Park and Martha’s Vineyard, and would drive across the country and visit friends along the way. In 2002 they made their last move, into the Channing House retirement community in Palo Alto, Calif.

In 1980 Margaret and Peter built their first U.S. home on Hines Point in Vineyard Haven, and for the next 20 years spent six months every year on the Island, which they loved dearly. Nancy Gardella nicknamed Margaret the Mayor of Vineyard Haven, because she seemed to know everyone, and loved wandering Main street to pop her head into every store just to say hi. She loved to share the Island with old friends, especially to take them to Chilmark Chocolates and to get a lobster roll at Grace Church.

She loved people — all kinds of people -—and often struck up conversations with complete strangers who became longtime friends. She enjoyed jokes and loved to laugh. She was gregarious, warm and kind, a fierce mahjong player in her day, and loved clothes. She was known for making everyone feel important, helping others, taking walks, and her inimitable fashion sense. She was a dedicated and loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend, and will be both missed and celebrated by all who knew her.

She was predeceased by her husband of 62 years, Peter, and is survived by her son Bill and his wife Nancy; daughters Peggy, Carol, Jackie and her husband Kirk McCarthy; three grandchildren and twin great-grandsons.

Expressions of sympathy and remembrance can be sent in an email to the family at or posted on the obituaries page at Spangler Mortuary

In addition, please carry her spirit with you every time you make a friend out of a stranger.