For many people, walking into a room of strangers is scary and intimidating.
For Margaret “Megan” Robb, it was the exact opposite.
“To her, it was like here’s a chance to meet all these new people,” said Robb’s sister, Susan Macdonald.
Robb, of Beverly, lived a life of adventure, traveling the country and pursuing new passions.
Family and friends are mourning Robb, who died at home on Jan. 14 after a second battle with breast cancer. A New Jersey native, the 49-year-old is being remembered for her fun spirit, outgoing personality and sense of humor.
“I think when anyone gets that kind of diagnosis, there’s a little bit of ‘Why me?’” Macdonald said. “But, she very quickly pivoted to … from Day 1, adopting the attitude of ‘I’m a survivor, and I’m not going to be shy about sharing what I’m going through.’ I think that was therapeutic for her. I also think it helped her to help other people.”
Robb was born on Aug. 12, 1971, in Summit, N.J.
She relocated to Chicago about 13 years ago, living on the North Side before moving to Beverly in December 2015, as she had friends in the community.
She loved Chicago, her sister said, because it has the right mix of Midwestern friendliness and big-city feel.
Robb was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in February 2016, and that May, at the registration for the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk, she said how grateful she was for support, including from her co-workers at the Shedd Aquarium.
Robb went into remission, but she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in March 2020.
Still, she remained upbeat and easygoing, her sister said. She would naturally bring up her cancer diagnosis into conversation, keeping the mood light but blunt. She realized how precious every moment was.
“I think she tried to balance ‘The odds are against me’ with having a positive attitude and definitely staying connected to people,” Macdonald said. “She had a good sense of humor and maintained a good outlook.”
Growing up, Robb attended Summit High School in her hometown, then Hamilton College, in New York, where she majored in government and graduated in 1993.
Robb worked in retail for brands including J. Crew, Bass and Talbots, then took on marketing and promotions jobs in print and media for USA Today and Patch.com.
She had other freelance jobs in marketing, her sister said, and figured out how to do what she liked without being tied to a desk, “which was just not her style.”
She volunteered with many organizations and charities—including the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk—and she was active with the Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Associates Board and Shedd Aquarium Auxiliary Board.
After her late mother, also named Margaret, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Robb became an active runner, finishing the Boston Marathon seven times while fundraising for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, which supports cancer research.
Robb was the last official finisher of the 2003 Boston Marathon, but she wore the title “as badge of her honor,” her family said.
Robb previously lived in Portland, Maine, Washington, D.C., and southern California, and she traveled to Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong, and Trinidad and Tobago.
While living in Chicago, she became involved with the Chicago Yacht Club. She loved the ocean, and Lake Michigan was just as good. She “kind of caught the [sailing] bug,” her sister said, and participated in local regattas.
Locally, Robb was active on Beverly Free Box, a Facebook group in which neighbors offer up free items, new or used. The group is known for its organization and cordialness.
As news of her death spread, members recalled her friendliness and charity.
On one occasion, she helped a member track down a queen-sized bed.
Beverly Free Box is now working with the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) and Morgan Park Presbyterian Church in creating the Megan Robb Memorial Seed Library, accepting seeds and garden supplies that will be available in a Little Free Library at the church, 2017 W. 110th Place.
Donations can be dropped off at BAPA offices, 1987 W. 111th St., every day through Friday, April 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Donations are also being accepted until 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 10, at Morgan Park Presbyterian, and visitors can pick up seeds and supplies in the church parking lot that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Guests can also learn about new plant varieties, sign up to grow produce for local food banks and join others in planting monarch-friendly plants.
Anne Williams, of Beverly, led the effort to start the seed library. She met Robb several years ago through sailing events and became re-acquainted through Beverly Free Box.
She said Robb amazed her with her optimistic outlook. Robb continued volunteering and participating in breast cancer awareness events despite her grim situation.
“That kind of completely changed my outlook on my life,” Williams said. “It’s not over; you’ve got to keep going. That’s kind of who she was. She didn’t stop. She always stayed positive. She was a very giving person. She was super energized despite battling cancer.”
Robb was also close with her classmates from Hamilton College, and they held Zoom meetings during the pandemic, where Robb caught up with old friends and made new ones.
Last December, about 40 of them attended a meeting disguised as a New Year’s Eve Party that was actually an announcement of a scholarship named in Robb’s honor.
Robb knew the scholarship had been created, her sister said, but nonetheless, it was a thrill.
She is grateful Robb’s classmates shared the news while Robb was still alive.
“I think it was the greatest gift they could have given her,” Macdonald said, “to learn about that during her lifetime, and that she passed away two weeks later.”
Robb is survived by her siblings, William (Amy) Robb and Susan (Frank) Macdonald; and her nieces and nephews, Maddie, Alex and Thomas Robb and Martha and Frannie Macdonald.
A private service was held. Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
The family plans to host a public service at a later date.