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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, July 27, 2007

Remembering Peggy

I've been thinking of Peggy because another of our high-school classmates, Helen Cross Rodriguez (one of our cheerleaders) was buried today. I wrote the following at Natchez Rebels on November 10, 2005.

These are my memories of Peggy O'Neil "Poppy" Pruett, who was in my high-school class and was a super-special person. One of my biggest regrets about losing my yearbook was that it contained the long and wonderful entry she wrote. I don't think I realized that she thought so much of me until I read that.

The first time I recall being in the same room with Peggy (as I always called her) was when we were in junior high. It was a discussion group at Westminster Presbyterian Church and the topic was moonshine liquor. She didn't know me from Adam and she surely didn't realize that I knew that her grandfather had contracted "jake leg" from drinking moonshine. Anyhow, she asked the moderator a ton of questions about the effects of moonshine.

Once in one of our high school classes, she was called on to read aloud. The passage contained "d----d," which meant "damned." When she got to that word, she paused and in a somewhat irritated tone said, "d dash d." (I think this was Mary Bellan's English class, which would've been our junior year.)

Peggy had leading roles in every musical in high school, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Bye Bye Birdie. Isaac Musselwhite directed all of them.

She hosted a senior party in the backyard of her home on Pine Ridge Road; she matched me with Jean Pless, whose father had been director of the YMCA, as my date. There was a speaker system for music, and I especially remember "Ferry Cross the Merzey."

I actually had a date with Peggy our senior year. I recall standing at her door, trying to raise the courage to kiss her goodnight. She finally stuck out her hand and shook with me. Wouldn't I love to have that to do over!!

I think the big majority of boys were as intimidated by Peggy as I was-- by her great intelligence, her quick wit, and her beauty. It would have taken a fellow with supreme self-confidence to handle her.

Despite not ever seeing her after high school, I tried to keep up with her activities. My late mother told me that she once encountered Peggy and her mother in Vidalia. Peggy, who was preparing to return to New York, was napping in the car.

Once when I was eating at Morrison's Cafeteria here in Jackson, I overheard someone at the next table say that he had heard Peggy sing in New York. [She was an opera star.] I boldly interrupted the conversation and proudly informed him that I had attended high school with her in Natchez.

I did not learn of Peggy's passing until last year: I was shocked and very sad for several days afterward.

The long conversation that I had for years fantasized about having with her would never be.

Paraphrasing William Shakespeare:

When she shall die,
Take her and cut her out in little stars,
And she will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.


Blogger Dani said...

Poppy's father was my first cousin. HIS mother was a sister to my father. Though I visited David and Jeanette in Natchez several times, during which time I met Poppy, it was many years ago. After David became ill, we lost contact with his branch of the family. Though I had tried to locate Poppy via the Internet, I had never been successful until I found your post. It was a joy to read your tribute to her, but a shock to learn she was gone. I tried to locate her photo in the Natchez Rebels yearbook but am not even sure in what year she graduated. Anything you could share with me - even an obituary - would be helpful. I would be very appreciative of any help you would give.

Howard W. Brister, Liberty TX
(I am using my wife's gmail acct.)

Mon Oct 05, 09:31:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Steve Rankin said...

Mr. Brister: Thanks for the comment. I knew that Peggy's (Poppy's) father had been suffering from Alzheimer's and am assuming that he has passed away.

Last I heard, Peggy's aunt-- her mother's sister-- was living in Oregon. Her husband's name is/was Chase Crawford.

Peggy graduated in 1965; she was one of our three graduation speakers, only one of whom is still living. The yearbook is posted at Natchez Rebels. There is also a tribute to Peggy at that site, which includes music.

Mon Oct 05, 08:13:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Steve Rankin said...

From The Natchez Democrat of September 18, 2003:

Peggy O'Neil Pruett

Jan. 12, 1947 - July 30, 2003

NEW YORK CITY - Memorial services for Peggy O'Neil Pruett, 56, who died Wednesday, July 30, 2003, in New York City, will be at 6 p.m. Sunday [September 21] at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. The service will be conducted by Dr. Fred Anderson, pastor of the Church.

Miss Pruett was born Jan. 12, 1947, in Natchez, the daughter of Jeanette Byrd and David Pruett.

She graduated from Natchez-Adams High School and attended Louisiana State University. She received her Bachelor and Master degrees from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

She gave her first New York recital on April 14, 1977, in Carnegie Hall and appeared in New York major concert halls, including Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall and Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, she appeared in premier performances of the New Opera Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and toured with the New York City Opera in New York and throughout the Midwest, California and several cities abroad.

Miss Pruett was preceded in death by her mother.

Survivors include her father, David P. Pruett of Natchez [died December 2007]; aunts, Wessye B. Heard of Natchez and Peggy B. Crawford of Tualatin, Oregon; uncles, William Edward Byrd of Natchez and Jerry L. Byrd of Sacramento, California; and several cousins, including Sammy Gore of Natchez.

The family requests that memorials be made to the organ fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Natchez or a charity of choice.

Sat Oct 10, 11:57:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Steve Rankin said...

Click here for a musical tribute to Peggy (Poppy).

Wed Nov 25, 02:22:00 AM CST  

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