A Creative Memorial for Artist Peggy Jackson

Nov 27, 2010 | 1 comment

A Creative Memorial for Peggy Jackson

Peggy Jackson’s lengthy obituary, written by her husband Dave, painted a detailed portrait of a fascinating artist, and it really made me want to attend her memorial service. Unfortunately, no event had been scheduled when this obit ran.

A few weeks later, a short notice appeared saying a memorial for Peggy Jackson, 76, would be held at the Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I was attracted by the brevity of the announcement, with no other details, unaware that she was the intriguing artist I had read about earlier.

Creative touches were everywhere, reflective of Peggy’s life: the displays of her watercolors, UNM yearbooks from the 1950s opened to the Alpha Delta Pi sorority page, bouquets of flowers that had been artfully arranged by friends, and the cards that featured a photo of Peggy in her studio, attached with a ribbon to another card with a recipe for “Peggy’s Favorite Lemon Meringue Pie” (more on that later).

Her husband Dave told me the family wanted to schedule the memorial service at a time when her students and the grandchildren could attend. The start of the Thanksgiving holiday turned out to be the best opportunity, and the multigenerational center space was available and free.

The event started with a video photo-montage of Peggy’s life, set to songs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” as done by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, “Blue Suede Shoes”  by Elvis, and an instrumental. At the end, everyone applauded.

There was a different spirit in this memorial service from others I’ve experienced during the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge. Every speaker was applauded when they finished. They spoke of an independent and adventurous woman who made friends for life, as evidenced by her sorority sisters in attendance. Peggy loved to have a good time holiday decorating, throwing theme parties, and making costumes for Halloween. Pink and turquoise were her favorite colors. She loved to laugh, cook, and live life fully.

The only mention of any religion was the reference to Phillips Brooks, an American Episcopal clergyman who lived in the 1800s, who wrote the following passage Peggy enshrined in her studio:

The ideal life is in our blood and never will be still. Sad will be the day for any man when he becomes contented with the thoughts he is thinking and the deeds he is doing — when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul, some great desire to do something larger, which he was meant and made to do.

Peggy Jackson knew she wanted to be an artist from her earliest days growing up in Clovis, NM. She received a BA in Art Education in 1956 and became a junior high art teacher. She and husband Dave moved around quite a bit over the years, and everywhere they lived, Peggy painted, took art classes, expanded her range, and her art began to win awards and sell. Some highlights from the obit:

Their home became an art gallery – constantly changing as shows came and paintings sold. It was a cacophony of color and design, of change and innovation, work in progress and by artist friends. It was figurines, pottery, candle sticks, weavings, Navajo rugs, photographs – all of which had a special place (which changed from time to time). And flowers. She loved flowers, growing and painting them. The yard and home was a constantly changing garden and flower display, all placed in a location where their color was highlighted…

Every day when she got out of bed she was thinking about art: what to paint, where to show, what to show. Her house is still an art gallery, not only of Peggy’s paintings but of many other artists’ works. She has been accepted at many juried shows, and her paintings are displayed all over Albuquerque in many public and private collections. She had seven paintings accepted by the New Mexico 1% for the Arts Program that are hanging in public buildings all over New Mexico.

At the end of the service, daughter Melissa thanked everyone for coming and for all of the friends who helped put this creative service together. She said that whenever she wanted to get on mom’s good side, she would make her a lemon meringue pie using lemon Jello brand pudding. For this service, they brought a dozen homemade lemon meringue pies and asked everyone to stay for coffee and a piece of Peggy’s favorite pie.

Usually, I leave these events before the reception, but the pies were right there and they looked so good! I can see why this was Peggy’s favorite. It gave me a chance to thank Dave for allowing me to experience such a warm, creative celebration of life.

Peggy’s ashes will be scattered over the New Mexico areas she loved to paint. May she continue to be a guardian angel for those she loved.

A Good Goodbye