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In Peggy's memory


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POSTED: Saturday, December 06, 2008

Although there weren't many dry eyes in the house, Peggy Chun would have likely banned weeping at her funeral. The cheerful watercolorist and Honolulu bon vivant was beloved by friends for her sunny, funny personality.

A one-hour service for Chun, who died Nov. 19 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig's disease — was held yesterday at Kawaiaha'o Church and was attended by several hundred.

The service alternated between traditional Christian hymns with a Hawaiian flavor and amusing, heartfelt remembrances of Chun by family, friends and the ad hoc ohana known as "Peg's Legs," volunteers who helped the artist not only survive, but continue to paint.

"After my first experience with Peg's Legs, I knew she was in good hands," said brother Peter Richard.

Several friends wore butterfly wings on their backs and bobbing antennae atop their heads. "Oh, Peggy was known for her costumes," said Carol Greenwell, of Kona, who met Chun in Gloria Foss' art class a couple of decades ago. "The butterfly thing is a salute to her spirit. She was so full of life and positivity and creativity. And so much fun! She had a costume party every Christmas for her women friends. No men — unless they were in drag!"

Described by brother Mike Richard as an "Oklahoma Catholic," Chun moved to the islands in 1969 as a speech teacher. Chun's twin sister, Bobbie Segler, a notable artist herself, died in 1987 of ALS, and at that moment Chun decided to pick up the brush herself. She became an overnight artistic success in her middle age.

The service began with musicians playing "Kanaka Waiwai," ending just as a blown conch shell signaled a stately procession of Chun's immediate family. Hymns played during the service included traditional pieces such as "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace," and a reading of the 23rd Psalm. Friends Keola and Moana Beamer performed "Green Rose Hula."

"Peggy would have been thrilled by this wondrous gathering of friends," noted husband Elroy Chun. "To all of us she was Miss Sunshine, neither saint nor sinner."

"Isn't it just like Peggy to have perfect weather on the day of her funeral?" remarked Mike Richard. The name "Peggy," in the course of the service, became something more than a noun, with guests declaring "just like Peggy," and "that is like so Peggy."

"I won't say Peggy was an angel," said caregiver Marvel Armitage, who, with other caregivers, was dressed in a penguin suit. "She could be kolohe (mischievous) at times. All her characterizations were necessary to create her legend."

Son Eric Chun recalled his mother's fascination with the flowing, subtle color palette of clouds. "She lived the magic of childhood," he summarized.

Hospice minister Clarence Liu said he gave Chun the standard-issue "Funeral 101 talk," emphasizing "the funeral is not about you, it's about the family. Peggy just rolled her eyes and said, 'Well, Clarence, there ARE exceptions!'"

Chun, who was 62, would have been unlikely to "bid us adieu," summed Elroy Chun. "She'd say, 'Hi, folks! I hope you're all OK!'"