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.