Newport, NH - Celestine "Da" Wiggins, 91, passed away on November 30, 2020 at Sullivan County Healthcare. Da was born Celestine Genevieve Kennedy on November 29, 1929 to William (Pa) and Elizabeth (Lizzie) (McGranaghan) Kennedy—both millworkers at Amoskeag who had moved to Newport from Manchester a decade before with the wider flow of European and Canadian immigrants that fortified inland river towns of Da’s generation. Da was the 6th of 8 children; 6 survived childhood. Her younger brother Ed identified her as “Da” as one of his first words; his affection for her endeared this name for life, by all.
Born one month after the stock market crash, her upbringing during the depths of the Depression was shaped by the character of her immediate and extended family— ¼ Scot, ¼ German but mostly Irish. Her parents were very different from each other—her mother an extrovert, beloved; her father, an observer with wry wit, a voracious reader—both were passionate about a life of learning, contribution, justice.
Mentored by a household that studied politics, the economy, and how all things develop, Da’s older siblings adored her. They were bold and vibrant and left their hometown where she stayed to marry Frank Wiggins in 1949 after one year at UNH working full time to send money back home. Like her older brother in Texas and her brother-in-law in Georgia, Da sought out the postal service as a career. She was one of the first women at the Section Center in White River Junction—lifting 70 lb. sacks. Decades later she was appointed Post Master in the mill village of Guild, where she had resided as a center point to raise her family of four children with Frank. A newspaper reporter in her twenties before she worked as a Newport telephone operator as one of Katie O’Leary’s gals, Da wrote a column for the postal national newsletter and served on the postal national legislative committee—a political post that she relished because it took her to DC to lobby Congress directly on behalf of the Postal Service—a federal system she considered vital. In retirement she was elected to the NH House of Representatives as a Democrat.
Da’s life held an unburdening and uplifting presence reciprocal in influence to her family’s influence on her. Old friends were especially important to Da; she affectionately coordinated class reunion events.
Da was respected as a co-worker and civil servant and was cherished by kin and friends as a champion of fairness and empowerment of the marginalized. In her elder years these character traits that embodied her love of what she quoted as “just life, great life!”, were retained; her community at the County Nursing Home, where she died with her family by her side, perceived this, remarking that her grace and grit were a community gift. She was deeply grateful for the assistance of all involved in her 24/7 care.
Da was predeceased by her husband of 60 years, Frank E. Wiggins, son, Peter Wiggins, and siblings, Bill Kennedy and wife Tomi, Helen Pariseau and husband Harold, Pat Dozier and husband Jim, Winnie Dignam and husband Bill, Edward Kennedy, Marion Kennedy, and John Kennedy.
Surviving family includes her son, Frank Wiggins and his partner Gail, daughters, Patryc Wiggins and Marie Wiggins, grandchildren, Jason Wiggins, Kristin Spanos, Ian Wiggins, Austin Willis, Ethan Johnson, and Gage Wiggins, 5 great-grandchildren, sister-in-law, Marlene Kennedy, and many nieces, nephews, and extended family members.
A private Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Patrick Catholic Parish. A public graveside service will be held on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 12:30 pm at Pine Grove Cemetery in Newport, NH.
Newton-Bartlett Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
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