Peggy Barbour Straughen (born Margaret Ann Barbour), 70, of Washington Township passed away unexpectedly at Miami Valley Hospital on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Born in Chambersburg, PA on August 21, 1937, Peggy entered nursing school in Harrisburg where she met her husband, Bill (William Joseph) Straughen. Married in 1958, they had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary withtheir children and grandchildren. Peggy was active in many ways at Normandy United Methodist Church, where she was a member for 40 years. Over her life, she sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and was a lay leader. She had a deep and abiding faith. Peggy was very active right up until her death; quilting, genealogy and playing bridge were her favorite interests. Peggy loved her swim lunch bunch and enjoyed their company often. She enjoyed traveling to see family and friends, from a high-school friend in California to family in Pennsylvania and Florida.

 

Darin’s tribute….

This morning, many dear friends of mine, and parishioners of Normandy United Methodist Church bid farewell to an extraordinary lady, Peggy Straughen. I don’t believe I could say that Peggy was larger than life because she WAS life! She personified how I wish I could live my own life.

The service was absolutely beautiful. In the narthex were photographs of Peggy and her family, a slide show played on the large screen in the sanctuary, and the altar was adorned with quilts made by Peggy’s own hands.

The ministers, David & Elizabeth Brown, are still fairly new, and they are both remarkable, invigorating speakers. Despite the fact I have now witnessed them presiding over two funerals, I marvel at their spirit, their passion for their ministry at Normandy, and their love and devotion to this congregation. They are indeed, a true blessing for this congregation.

The music was beautiful, and the personal tributes delightful, insightful, and moving.

So… how do I say a few words about Peggy? Woa! Say a few words? Trying to say a few words about Peggy would be like trying to fill a bath tub with the ocean.

I sat in the Normandy sanctuary this morning, just like every one else sitting in the packed church…

shocked….

saddened…

and with a feeling there is now a hideous void in our world as we have known it.

While I describe this brilliant lady, it would be appropriate that my writing should take on a quality of haunting strings from something like Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO FOR STRINGS.

But come on… this is for Peggy…

She was not a symphony dripping with melancholy… Peggy’s life was more like a big marching band! Peggy emulated the liveliness, strength, excitement, bounce, thrill, passion, and drive of a John Phillip Sousa march!

For those who knew Peggy, answer the following statements with True or False…

  • Peggy had a big heart.
  • Peggy loved her family dearly and fiercely.
  • Peggy had a big, hearty laugh.
  • You always knew where you stood with Peggy.
  • When you asked Peggy, “How are you doing?” More often than not, she told you what neat things her children and grandchildren were doing.
  • Peggy had a hug that was the grip of a grisly.
  • Peggy loved all her friends.
  • Peggy loved her God, loved Normandy church and its people.

Do you notice all these statements were TRUE?

Well, so was Peggy.

It was 12 years ago I met Peggy when I first arrived at Normandy as the director of music. Following my first rehearsal, Peggy charged right up to me, passing the other choir members who were coming forward to welcome me.

Peggy wanted to let me know that she was the choir’s librarian and if I needed anything, please let her know. While I greeted other choir members, Peggy waited patiently, chatting, laughing, smiling… now, keep in mind – Peggy never did anything with half-hearted effort. Her laughter was big… her smiles were huge (but oh, so warm and inviting)… the sparkle in her eyes was tremendous…

Once the last choir member had left, Peggy walked me to the music office, and began my tutorial of how “her” music library worked. When Peggy was instructing, she was never demeaning, or bossy. As someone said this morning, Peggy had high expectations of her self, and encouraged others to be accountable for their own expectations. Although Peggy’s comments to me could have appeared critical, she was simply treating me like one of her own children – she wanted me to be the best I could, and should be.

Peggy gave me my marching orders for the music library, and I commented that once summer began I would take the time to go through the files – there was a ton of music to explore.

The following week I arrived for choir rehearsal and Peggy was waiting for me. She walked me to the music office and with words that were both business like, but with an air of girlish excitement, she pointed to two large storage tubs on my desk.

Peggy took the time to pull one copy of choir music from each file folder. Each copy was placed in the tub, in order of the file cabinets, and each drawer was labeled in the tubs so that I would know exactly where to search for the folders of music!

This was brilliant, and I hugged Peggy, thanking her for all her work.

Peggy told me, “There’s no sense in you wasting your time going through the drawers. You can take these tubs home and go through them at your leisure. Besides, we’ve run off a lot of choir directors and I can tell you’re a keeper.”

And with that, Peggy was out the door, greeting other choir members.

Later that fall, on a late stormy night, I was working in the music office. I heard the front door of the Grant House open, and slam shut. The footsteps came directly to my office. There stood Peggy, rain water dripping off her rain coat, her glasses speckled with water droplets, and her hair damp.

I saw your car in the circle and the light on.  Are you OK?”

I assured Peggy I was fine and that I was just finishing up some work.

Peggy quickly assessed the project at hand, and before I knew it, her coat was draped over the chair and without invitation, she was working along side me – chatting and laughing. But before leaving for home, she gave me a hug and said, “This was fun. Thank you for letting me join you.”

When I was preparing to travel with my brother and his students to Washington, DC, I was telling the choir at rehearsal that the year before our buses drove through this beautiful Pennsylvanian town enroute to Gettysburg just as the sun was rising over the hills.

Peggy leaned forward, grinning, and asked, “Do you remember the name of that town?”

“Yes,” I said. “Chambersburg.”

The rest of the choir must have already known what Peggy squealed out with pride, and excitement. “I’m from Chambersburg!”

After rehearsal, Peggy told me about the town, and I believe her mother was still living at that time. I know she loved visiting her beloved home town.

When I returned from the trip, I handed Peggy three or four photos I had taken of Chambersburg as we were passing through. Peggy was so touched that I would not only remember, but take photos for her.

This morning, my successor as music director told the gathered loved ones how Peggy never held back on “making corrections” in rehearsals. In one rehearsal, Peggy corrected me on something – politely, but with her, “Let’s get this correct” gaze.

When we agreed on the item, Ron Thie, one of the most hilarious, lovable men I have ever known, asked Peggy, “Is there anything you need to fix with the basses, Peggy?”

The room became silent, not knowing how Peggy would react. I think I was even standing a little taller. Peggy turned in her chair, looked directly at Ron and said, “Well, since you asked…”

Peggy led the choir in explosive laughter!

Another time I forgot to cue the altos on a cut-off. This cut-off had been one of my instructions, and we had even rehearsed it. Well, during this one rehearsal, I forgot that cut-off. When I stopped the choir for notes, Peggy’s hand shot into the air.

“Are you going to cue that cut-off or not? There’s no sense in us all looking up at that point if you aren’t going to give us that cut-off.”

Be assured, that cut-off was not forgotten!

One day, I decided to spruce up my office, and discovered an artificial floral arrangement across the hallway in a closet. I set it on the file cabinets in my office. Peggy saw it just before the choir’s next rehearsal, and asked, “Did you get permission to use that arrangement?”

I look dumbfounded.

Just be sure you check with someone before you use things. People here at Normandy are kind of funny about their areas in the church.”

I asked Peggy, “Who should I ask?”

She smiled, laughed, and said, “Me, of course.”

One parishioner this morning said she and Peggy would have contests on who knew their hymns. The lady said, “As I proudly started to sing the first verse to prove I knew a hymn, Peggy would start singing the second verse.”

One of my first Sundays at Normandy, I was seated on the angle of the first row, and I noticed Peggy kept looking at me during the hymns. After service she strolled up to me and said, “I am proud of you. You didn’t crack open your hymnal for any of the hymns.”

Truth be known, I often get the first verse of a hymn, but move my mouth throughout the remainder of the hymn.

Peggy gave hugs that could weaken a quarterback. I once joked that after my first Peggy-hug, I had to go to the ER with four cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and smashed vertebrae. Peggy never squeezed the life out of you, she squeezed her love into you.

 

 

So here I am on a Saturday night, writing about a woman that obviously touched my life in a big way… in a great, and loving way.

I hope that each of us will continue to use many of Peggy’s wonderful attributes as a guide for our own lives.

Just like Peggy…

…keep working hard and with tremendous devotion and a big passion.

….keep serving others with deep love and a big passion.

…keep loving others with sincerity and a big passion.

….and when you see someone who needs a hug, give them a Peggy Straughen hug and let them know you truly love them.

God bless you, Peggy, and thank you for touching my life… for hugging my life in a big way!

 

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