…as given to Joselyn Watkins
To know Peggy Keyes is to marvel at a person who lives her life with a great deal of purpose.
I told her that she has written her story much better than I could have. And so, with a little editing here it is:
I was born Margaret Stewart Morgan but always called Peggy. Due to my father’s work we moved a lot when I was young. When I was 10 years old we moved to my father’s home town New Rochelle, NY. After graduating from high school, I attended and graduated from The College of St. Rose in Albany, NY, majoring in elementary education. After teaching several years I met and fell in love with Larry Keyes. We knew each other only a month when we got engaged. Many said the marriage would never last. We were married 47 years, had 5 children and 4 grandchildren when Larry died of pancreatic cancer in 2007. Another grandchild was born after Larry’s death and now our first great grandchild is due in January 2018.
We raised our family in the same town that Larry grew up in, Crestwood, NY. Our children attended the same elementary school as Larry did.
While our children were young I was a stay at home mom but when they got older I returned to school receiving a Master’s Degree in Special Education and finally took a job as a Special Ed teacher at a high school in the Bronx where I worked for 18 years.
After each of us retired we followed one of Larry’s childhood friends, Paul Nealon, to Lake Lure. We were so happy when Dick and Barbara Nealon also moved to Lake Lure. We both were very happy here. Larry joined the fire department and I volunteered at the Welcome Center. I enjoyed participating in water aerobics and a craft group that was active at the time.
We joined the HOA and Newcomers. We loved meeting new people and joining in the activities. We tried square dancing at the library but that wasn’t our thing. Life was great!
Unfortunately, six years after our move here Larry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died 3 months later. I was absolutely heart broken. Then I got angry. How could this have happened? Why wasn’t there a cure for pancreatic cancer. In searching for answers, I learned that there had not been any improvement in saving patients who had pancreatic cancer in over 30 years. That made me even angrier. I found out that fewer and fewer are dying of cancer except those dying of pancreatic cancer. I felt that I had to do something to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research.
My friends and I started knitting and selling scarves. That is to say, we tried to sell knitted scarves. Who wears knitted scarves in the South? I knew that I had to find another avenue in which to raise funds for pancreatic research.
Then it hit me… a train museum. Larry was an avid model train collector. He left me with a basement full of them. In 2010 I was able to buy a building on Memorial Highway in Lake Lure and with the help of some really great train lovers in 2011 I opened The Right Track Toy Train Museum, the legal name of which is The Right Track To A Cure For Pancreatic Cancer, a 501(c)3 with 100% of the funds going to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (Pancan.org). Through this organization I have been able to attend Advocacy Day in Washington, DC where hundreds of people lobby Congress and the Senate to get more funding for pancreatic cancer research. While in Washington I met Patrick Swayze’s widow and Michael Landon’s widow and son another year. Both Patrick and Michael’s pictures are on the Memory Wall in the museum. Having a ton of money doesn’t seem to keep one from dying of pancreatic cancer. Steve Jobs died of it.
Thousands of dollars have been raised at the museum since its opening. Not only do I feel like I am doing something to raise funds for and awareness of pancreatic cancer, but I am having a great time doing it. More and more people are coming every year and the kids who come have a great time and I enjoy them very much. I encourage you to go on Facebook to The Right Track Toy Train Museum and check out pictures of the kids. Better yet, visit the museum to see for yourself. It is closed for the winter right now but will reopen in the spring.
The recipe, for this lemonade that the title suggests is just exactly what Peggy has done with her life. Having had breast cancer and still running the museum with the help of volunteers while going through treatment, she continues to lobby for pancreatic cancer research by yearly attending Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Advocacy Day.
She and Larry Keyes were so wonderfully happy in their retirement here at Lake Lure when the nightmare of nightmares happened. And so with the lemons Peggy has been given she has chosen to make sweet lemonade with her dedication to raising money for pancreatic cancer research.
Not only does she do this fund raising, but she has dedicated three hours a week at the Hospice House in Rutherfordton as a volunteer. She shared with me that Hospice was an integral part of caring for Larry when he was so very ill.
Well done Peggy Keyes.