ASBURY, Iowa — Maggie Pearce danced through life unapologetically, drawing people into her orbit with a radiant smile.
A nurse sustained by her faith in God, she was determined to provide the best care for her patients.
“She brought so much energy to the present moment,” said Maggie’s aunt Susan Swift.
Maggie and her fiance, Nathaniel Hargrove, were expecting their first child, whom they called “our girl, baby Isla.”
Their new daughter would join them in their Asbury home, where they were raising Nathaniel’s two boys, Kobe and Daylen. Maggie’s beloved cats, Chow and Rousey, lived there, too. The couple intended to have a small family wedding in May.
Maggie, 25, believed the fatigue and abdominal pain she experienced were typical of an expectant mother.
Doctors never had the chance to discover her ectopic pregnancy. The potentially life-threatening complication occurs when a fertilized egg implants and begins to grow outside the uterus.
Maggie died on March 11 at home.
“It’s like an emptiness that you can’t explain,” said her mother, Pilar Swift.
Maggie spent the first half of her childhood in Cuba City, Wis., growing up in a Green Bay Packers household, leaving her with little alternative but to become a devout cheesehead.
Pilar, a teacher, and Maggie’s father, Daniel Pearce, a maintenance worker, were high school sweethearts. After his death in 2005, the family moved to Dubuque.
Maggie was an easy baby, Pilar said. As a toddler, she loved to sing and dance. Pilar called her daughter “Maggie Sunshine Girl.”
When Maggie misbehaved and Pilar sent her to her bedroom, Maggie slipped notes of apology under the door. She explained her error and told Pilar how much she loved her.
Despite her hunger for fried ice cream and heaping plates of steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, Maggie was petite. She stood 5 feet, 3 inches tall underneath a mane of permed hair.
She enjoyed hiking at Mines of Spain State Recreation Area and playing basketball with her brother, Jackson Pearce, 20. Maggie kept Dum-Dums lollipops inside all her coat pockets. She drove a 2018 Mustang convertible in robin egg blue.
Maggie was unafraid to speak her mind and did so in her characteristic husky voice.
“I don’t know why you guys are mad at me,” she might say upon arriving to a family grill-out 30 to 60 minutes behind schedule. “You knew I was going to be late, so you might as well just get over it.”
Maggie’s family often vacationed in Wisconsin Dells. They stayed at Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort, where Maggie, Jackson and their older sister, Molly Pearce, 27, lay on a sandy beach, played corn hole, kayaked and fed ducks morsels of bread.
Once, while cruising on a boat tour on the Wisconsin River, a then-teenage Maggie decided with a friend to jump off in a particularly deep section of water. A patrol boat was called to fetch the girls.
“Mom, my best friend did it,” Maggie explained, as Pilar recalled the conversation. “She was already in the water. There is no way I’m not going to.”
Maggie worked as a certified nursing assistant while she was a student at Hempstead High School. She graduated in 2014 and later attended Northeast Iowa Community College to study nursing.
Maggie was fiercely dedicated to the residents at Ennoble Nursing and Rehabilitation, her most recent employer.
“She saw them as an extension of family, in a way,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t a job that she clocked into.”
On Monday nights, Maggie often watched “The Bachelor” with Molly.
Maggie constantly occupied her mind, filling in word search puzzles using glitter pens she kept inside her purse.
Maggie was often tired and slept when she had the chance. When Maggie awoke, she inhaled deeply through her nose and scanned the room, dazed.
After Maggie died, it was important to Pilar that she be allowed to apply Maggie’s makeup before the visitation. Maggie’s aunt would do her hair.
Nathanial asked that they keep Maggie’s appearance the way she looked when he first met her — wild, not like a princess.
“I’ve done her makeup for homecomings and proms and,” Pilar said, pausing, “she’d do it for me.”