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Remembering Big Peggy

The gardens of Athens will never be the same after losing one of its most vibrant flowers


Life is a garden…and she could really dig it. Her recent death leaves a void in the landscapes of the lives she touched. was a remarkable Southern lady whose spirit was as vibrant and pervasive as the wisteria in bloom all over Athens. She had a style all her own. A personal style envied by some, emulated by others, inspiring to all, but never duplicated.

As I welcome spring this year, my yard is my favorite place to mingle with the souls of Peggy and my mother. They were the dearest of friends. They both loved gardens, and passed their talents on to my generation. Both were transplants to post-World War II Athens. Mama from Missouri. Peggy from Texas. And through the years they both came to embrace Athens as home. They raised children together, survived many sad times, reveled in joyful events, contributed to the community unselfishly and left legacies that are comparable to none.

Peggy lived a long, productive life. She spread beauty as lavishly as Paula Deen spreads butter. As a child, I loved it when Mama would put me in the car and say, “We’re going to see Peggy, Meggie.” To be in her company was simply the most uplifting experience one can imagine.

One of my last memories of her happened only a short time before her death. I was given the privilege of presenting the eulogy at the funeral of our mutual friend, Baba DuPree. Having had trouble hearing the oration, she called me a few weeks later and invited me to lunch with a small group of friends. And her special request, delivered by Chad Erwin, was for a print out of my presentation. Happy to oblige, I was so glad I had saved it on my computer. And took it with me to The National. Never did I dream that she would request a command performance –but she did. The encore took place, and we all were embraced with our love and friendship of Baba and each other.

The day before her memorial service at , my friend Ann Cabaniss stopped by to see me. As we chatted in my driveway about how much we would miss Peggy, a huge butterfly – one I had never seen before – similar to a Monarch, but ten times more striking in color and wing-pattern – flew out of the sky and lit on a pot of pansies at our feet. It lingered way longer than we could believe. Our teary eyes connected and we both smiled, knowing it was truly a sign that Peggy would never leave us entirely. Her spirit inhabits my own yard.

Now, Peggy was a real dirt-digging, pine tag-toting, weed-pulling gardener. Her yards were abundant with eye-popping beauty. And she always wore a wonderful little straw chapeau – to work in the yard, to church, to garden club…it was her “signature” accessory. So, in her honor I found a little topper at Target and tarted it up, Peggy style, to wear to the memorial service. It now officially serves as my garden lid, and I love it.  But not as much as I loved her.

Hats off to Peggy, I know my Mama is glad to see her once more.

Gay Crowe March 27, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Thank you! This is a wonderful article. I know you put smiles on many faces this morning.
Pat McAlexander March 27, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Wonderful tribute.
buddy allen March 27, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Meg, Thank you for your kind comments about Peggy. The hat is "perfect". buddy
adair allen March 28, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Thank you so much for the wonderful write up on Aunt Peggy... Our world will not be the same without her. I am so grateful and blessed for the time I had with her and to be lucky enough to have her as my aunt. Its wonderful to see how many peoples lives she has touched. Adair
Katherine Potter March 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Thank you, Meg. While you are passing out copies of Momma's eulogy, would you mind sending one to me? I'll facebook you my address. Tears and coffee this morning. Much love, Kackie

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