Margaret M. “Peg” Fitzgerald’s entire working life was composed of service: to God, her country and to the inmates at the county jail.
A U.S. Navy veteran, former nun and retired nurse, Ms. Fitzgerald, formerly of Ambridge and Crafton, died Wednesday at Baptist Homes in Mt. Lebanon. She was 88.
A graduate of Duquesne University, Ms. Fitzgerald entered the Sisters of St. Josephs congregation for one year before beginning a different kind of service in the Navy, as a Judge Advocate General’s Corps attorney, said her sister Anne Rose.
Those closest to her weren’t sure exactly what prompted the St. John’s University law school graduate and lieutenant to return to the nunnery but nonetheless supported her in the endeavor after more than 17 years of active military service.
“I think that was something that she had desired probably all her life,” said Roberta Clayton, a friend who lived with Ms. Fitzgerald once she left the convent.
In 1965, Ms. Fitzgerald entered the Order of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and made her vows six years later, said Sister Agnes McCormick, who trained with her.
“I know she wanted to serve God, so she entered,” she said.
Sister Agnes recalled that Ms. Fitzgerald, who was older than her fellow sisters, would often engage in deep philosophical discussions, using Latin terminology with the priest who taught the nuns theology.
In addition to serving as the principal of St. Columbkille Catholic School, Ms. Fitzgerald also was part of a leadership team that visited various convents in Europe. She served at the Order of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity for about 30 years.
Family and friends described her as independent, deeply intelligent and “a lady of many talents.”
“She was a brilliant woman with a generous heart that gave her life to God,” Sister Agnes said.
The two stayed in touch for years after Ms. Fitzgerald left the convent to work nights as a registered nurse at the Allegheny County Jail.
Sister Agnes said her friend once asked her to meet for lunch and, while there, presented her a $10,000 check for the Order of Sisters.
Ms. Fitzgerald is survived by her sisters, Ms. Rose of Torrance, Calif., and Dorothy Hoover, of Ambridge.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today at Schepner-McDermott Funeral Home in Crafton. A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Philip Catholic Church.
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1944.