I Remember Peggy Schluchter

Sometime around 1981-83, God gave me two gifts in Joe Schluchter. The one gift was Joe himself. A man whom I came to love because he loved me so well and, along with a number of other similar men, became a great example of a Christian man to me. The other gift was his wife Peggy, who recently succumbed to chronic disease.

I was in my early 20’s, forging my way into an early career, and God brought me to Peggy and Joe. First it was Joe, through the Wednesday Businessmen’s Lunch at Central Presbyterian Church. Somewhere in between there and the Thursday Men’s Equipping Night (M.E.N.) I came to know Peggy as well.

She married a Navy man. I can’t remember whether Joe was out of the Navy when they married, but his being a former munitions diver (whose roommate Boomer was the stuff of legends), I didn’t think that Joe ever stopped being Navy, albeit of the more irregular kind. So Peggy was one of those who tolerated – and with a twinkle in her eye enjoyed – being married to a man’s man who never lost the puckishness of those free and adventuresome times.

I don’t remember the day I first met Peggy, but I recall thinking that they were precisely the kind of couple one sees in the prom king and queen photos from the 60s. I wasn’t that much younger than they, but they were the picture of that moment when America was poised at the top of the summit of optimism and innocence as it was beginning to tip toward the descent into the valley of cynicism that Vietnam, Watergate and everything since brought us. Joe and Peggy were a handsome, all-American couple. The kinds that 50s songs were written about.

She was a nut heiress, by the way. Beer Nuts, as I recall. However, I only knew it through Joe. It never came up from Peggy in either conversation or pretense. No veneer. When you saw Peggy, you saw Peggy. She was present. Real. Fully present. As she was always accustomed, giving the gift of herself.

Peggy, like a number of other incredible wives I got to know, stood beside the men who made such a difference in my life. My father had died just a few years before when I was twenty two. But even if he had still been alive, I inhabited a different world from the wind, rain, cold and heat of a railroader. Dad would have done his best to help me be a good man in my new world, but as he said to me when I was deliberating over (then) Big Eight accounting offers, “I wish I knew enough to help you.”

But God sent me Joe…and Terry Etter, Bob Mark, Bob Denckhoff and so many others. I watched and learned from these men what it meant to be God’s man. They probably had no idea during those late night breakfasts at IHOP. I saw how they learned to love their wives and I saw how their choice wives brought forward the best in them to make them great husbands. From them I learned a template for being a Christian husband and father.

The summer of 1983 when I was falling in love with Vicki, Joe was probably the first one I told. On a trip to a Presbyterian general assembly in the melting heat of Phoenix. Within a few weeks I was housesitting at Joe and Peggy’s. There I entertained Vicki for dinner. We walked Peggy’s garden – not knowing that you’re supposed to pick zucchini before it gets too big. They just kept on growing and, when we finally picked them, we learned the hard way that one can never bake enough zucchini bread to use all the zucchini. Her garden was a metaphor for her life – full, abundant, overflowing.

My life became wrapped so much around Joe’s. These were the years of marriage for me, leaving the marketplace, sorting out a call to ministry, helping churches through the work of Lay Renewal Ministries. But Peggy was a part of that Joe as much as a heart or a leg is a part of a person.

At a certain age we begin to wonder if people will remember us when we’re gone. For those who remain, they wonder if people will remember well the one they miss so much. Here’s the answer: the world doesn’t forget Peggy Schluchters. No, sir. We just don’t forget. I’ll always be grateful for Joe, for the time and space he made for me. Now a part of Joe is gone, because Peggy is gone. But I remember, Joe. I do. God’s grace is sufficient for this new chapter in your life; not just to survive, but to flourish. If you keep walking the way you walked with Peggy, you will continue the overflow of God’s grace into the lives of others. Thank you for letting me so many years ago, Joe, into your life but especially into your life with Peggy. Be patient. She will be raised incorruptible. All will be well. Keep walking.

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