Peggy’s Now Partying In Heaven

Susan Page
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Wednesday - November 26, 2008
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Peggy Chun’s MidWeek cover from July 2002

Artist Peggy Chun is my hero and will be for the rest of my days. Though she headed off to heaven last Wednesday, she’ll be here in spirit in my life - and in the lives of anyone who had the rare good fortune to know her - forever.

Peggy loved a party more than anyone I ever knew. But not just any party, a costume party. And it didn’t matter that your party didn’t call for a costume, she’d still show up in some kind of funny ears, antlers, bee feelers, Mexican sombrero or penguin hat. Her parties required costumes. Her famous annual After New Year’s party was for women only. Men could come, but only if dressed like a woman. More than a few always showed up.

Flat on her back with only eye movement to communicate, Peggy could orchestrate a shindig - with the physical help of her Peg’s Legs, led by daughter-inlaw Kimi Chun - like the Ringling Brothers.


 

Peggy loved to plan parties, too, so it was no surprise that she planned her last. It was spread out over several days, including a heavily attended “Early Thanksgiving” party Sunday, Nov. 16. On Monday, it was early Christmas, her favorite holiday. Everyone coming to visit Peggy for the last time (in this life at least) was asked to dress holiday festive. My husband, Jerry Coffee, and I visited on Tuesday. Just inside the door, one of Peggy’s many die-hard friends put a tinsel lei around my neck and offered me reindeer antlers to wear.

I had decided instead to wear my Miss Texas crown because Peggy had never seen me in it. Hardly anyone has since 1967. When Peggy saw me from her bed, I know there was a chuckle behind her perfectly still face. Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) long ago stole her impish smile, but not her powerful sense of humor revving inside her like a Formula One racer at the start line.

Many of her award-winning watercolors are loaded with humor. Only Peggy could paint Holstein cows funny. But painting titles like Udder Nonsense, Egrets Only and a Day Off from the Dairy give you the idea. Also,

whimsical penguins, puffer fish, prairie dogs, cats, horses and all varieties of sea creatures were her artistic muses - her “party animals” - living it up in one dimension. Peggy was a serious artist with serious talent who believed life should be a blast, both on canvas and in business.

And who could complain to Peggy Chun, whose past five years have been a slow but sure loss of any control over her own body, that life was just too hard to be cheerful?

When I had my private meeting with Peggy to say

“Aloha till we meet again,” I wanted her to know a few things: One, that she was my hero. Two, that I loved her. Three, that I wish I could be a fly on the heavenly wall (will heaven have walls?) when she reunites with her mother and twin sister, both succumbing to ALS years ago - what a party! Four, that finally she wouldn’t be canceling out my vote anymore - she being a proud “Yellow Dog” Democrat. (I know she laughed at that one.) And five, that she has been the living example of what God says in scripture for us to do: “Make a joyful noise.”


Peggy Chun taught me everything that is important to know: We have such a short time here. Why live it without a party every day, even if it’s just inside our own head?

Today, I picture Peggy immersed in color more intense than she could ever find in her beloved watercolors and surrounded by glorious music, family and friends - even some Holsteins - and they’re all in costume.

RSVP: I will see you, my friend. Save me a good costume. Please, not the devil one.

(You can learn more about the extraordinary Peggy Chun at http://www.peggychun.com.)

 

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