I can’t believe that Peggy Rae Sapienza is gone. I got the news while on the train, and managed to mostly hold it together until getting to my office, where I am now just sitting and crying and reading all the beautiful tributes. I had so hoped that she would pull through this, and I’d see her later this year at Worldcon or Smofcon, and she’d be her usual smiling, beautiful self.
I met Peggy Rae during the Chicago in 2008 Worldcon Bid. In 2006, not long after we lost, Peggy Rae came to Chicago. Dave McCarty and I had dinner with her, and she looked at both of us and said “So, what are you going to do for Japan?” Dave ended up as the Events Division Head, and I solicited ads for the program book. Because one simply did not say “no” to Peggy Rae. It was impossible to do so.
Even though we had been bidding for a Worldcon, Peggy Rae actually gave us both our first ever Worldcon jobs.
She was our Fan Guest of Honor in 2012 at Chicon 7, and I am so proud that we were the ones to honor her, especially in light of the role she played for both Dave and I in the Worldcon community.
My deepest condolences and love go out to John Sapienza, Peggy Rae’s family, and her friends. I will miss her more than words can say.
I’ve been involved with fandom since 2011, when I joined the Bay Area Science Fiction Association (BASFA). Over my first few months of attending meetings, my new friends convinced me that Worldcon was the place for anyone wishing to learn more about science fiction. I purchased my membership for the then upcoming Chicon 7, and my friend Maurine Starkey invited me to the Hugo Award ceremony and related parties as her escort. What a thrill to get an insider’s look at these doings, to meet Neil Gaiman, and to see Maurine score the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. During the evening, Maurine introduced me to another who quickly won my heart, Peggy Rae Sapienza.
Rarely have I connected with any individual so quickly. Peggy Rae and I spent hours over the next two evenings discussing everything imaginable. Obviously, she’d devoted enormous energies to conventions, which I deduced from her stories and from the reverence paid to her by others. Silly me – I hadn’t even realized that she was the Fan Guest of Honor at that Worldcon. She predicted that although I was a latecomer, soon I would evolve into a fan who watched out for others, for the community at large. Her tone revealed her deep commitment to fandom and that she expected no less from me.
After that Worldcon, I again encountered Peggy Rae at several conventions and conferences. We’d dine, and then sequester ourselves for deep conversations. Through Peggy Rae, I became involved in the Nebula Awards weekend, where I presented the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, quite an honor for a fellow who only had wandered in off the streets three years before. Always she added so much to any event we attended together.
A few noticed our rapidly growing friendship and weren’t shy with opinions. Some viewed Peggy Rae as a modern-day Lucrezia Borgia. The majority described her in ways that brought to mind Eleanor Roosevelt. The Borgia camp most likely had experienced the just hand she administered when running conventions, perhaps feeling hurt that certain decisions hadn’t gone their way, failing to understand that it wasn’t personal. The Roosevelt camp appreciated the skills she’d brought to any endeavor she guided. Any fool could see the talent and wisdom she possessed. What a loss to our community her death signifies.
My last contact with Peggy Rae happened by email. She wrote a short note thanking me for advice I’d given regarding sexual harassment at conventions. Two weeks later, Warren Buff informed me that she was facing serious bypass surgery, and I realized her note constituted a goodbye, a “you’re pretty good, Chuck” nod before she began her final step. I regret not answering that email, not reading between the lines, and not knowing about her illness. She knows I’ll atone, however, with my mower’s sharp blades. I have mowed Peggy Rae’s lawn. I’ll do so again. I’ll steer my mower straight and true, leaving even impressions in the grass and never missing a spot. As I stated above, she’d expect no less from me. So, of course, I’ll deliver no less.