Peggy Chun

Wednesday - March 15, 2006
By Kerry Miller | Share Del.icio.us

Peggy Chun
Peggy Chun

For years Peggy Chun captivated many in Hawaii with her beautiful and whimsical watercolor paintings. These days, the lively artist is still painting, but not with a brush, the way most of us might think.

In 2002, Chun was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), which has left her paralyzed, with only her hearing and eyesight intact. Through the miracle of technology, Chun uses a computer system called E.R.I.C.A. to communicate with caregivers and create digital paintings. E.R.I.C.A. operates through a retina scanner that scans her eye and calibrates so that her eye can “talk” to the computer screen, spelling out words, sentences and even creating paintings. After she enters a sentence, a computerized voice vocalizes the words.

“I want to express how important communication is for anyone who is paralyzed for family and caregivers, as well as for the patient,” says Chun, who appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in July 2001.

Also through E.R.I.C.A., Chun is writing children’s books “about my paintings as seen through the eyes of Boo (her cat),“she reveals.

Chun’s daughter-in-law Kimi Chun, Pat Gamble, Joni Jackson and Kelly Jones are “Peg’s Legs,” or her caregivers. Kimi excitedly tells MidWeek that her creative mother-in-law just completed her first “eye painting” called “eyeheartyou.” She also reveals that despite her present condition, Chun remains an energetic lady who always welcomes visitors into her home.

“She has always from day one had an open-house policy,” says her daughter-in law. “I don’t think there is anybody else painting with their eyes.”

Since 2003, Chun has been on a ventilator and requires 24-hour care, with nurses from an agency covering the overnight shifts, which Kimi says, is very expensive. Through “Friends of Peggy Chun,” the family and friends have been raising money for Chun’s medical expenses.

Donations come through sales of Chun’s artwork sold at a small gallery out of her home, and if the upcoming “Painting For Peggy” classes are successful, Kimi hopes they will also provide the funds needed to support Chun through the rest of this year and into 2007.

Family members, friends and extended ohana are welcome to sign up for these free classes to be held March 19, 26, April 2 and 9. Chun will instruct via E.R.I.C.A. and her caregivers. Each participant signs their completed paintings, which will be sold at the “Painting For Peggy” art show on May 5 at the Bethel Street Gallery. Sign up by calling 561-1864 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

“I LOVE TEACHING,” Chun writes, excited about her upcoming classes.

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