2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Let’s shower Peggy Shivers with birthday presence.

Published: June 6, 2014, 8:00 am, by Bill Vogrin

Peggy Shivers in a March 2013 photo. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

Peggy Shivers in March 2013. She and her late husband, Clarence Shivers, gave many gifts to Colorado Springs after they moved here in 1979 including creating an endowment at the Pikes Peak Library District to chronicle the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts. Clarence, an Air Force pilot, also was an artist and he painted “The Man in Prayer” seen hanging behind Peggy Shivers. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

Peggy Shivers is coming up on her 75th birthday and to mark her milestone, she doesn’t want your presents.

But she would love your presence.

Don’t know Peggy Shivers? Wondering why you might want to observe her birthday?

Consider all the presents she and her late husband, Clarence, have bestowed on Colorado Springs over the years.

First, a little about the Shiverses.

Clarence was an Air Force pilot who trained with the famed Tuskegee Airmen black pilot fighter squadron in World War II. He was also an artist . . . a painter and sculptor.

Peggy is a singer . . . a classically trained opera soprano. She became his business manager after they married in 1968.

Clarence retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1969 and the couple moved to Madrid to allow Peggy to pursue her singing career.

The couple moved to Colorado Springs in 1979 and became active in the community. They saw a need to raise the profile of black artists.

So in 1993, as part of their 25th wedding celebration, Peggy and Clarence established the Shivers Fund, which started as a few thousand dollars earned by Clarence from one of his art shows.

Today, the fund stands as a $100,000 endowment. It was used to establish the Shivers African-American Historical and Cultural Collection at the Pikes Peak Library District.

The collection boasts more than 1,000 books, audio books, reference materials, DVDs and CDs by and about African-Americans. The collection chronicles the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts.

Besides expanding the library’s collection, the fund grants scholarships of $3,000-$4,000 to young people interested in studying the arts.

In addition, the fund makes regular donations to local arts organizations.

Clarence and Peggy also started another tradition 20 years ago when they hosted a Thanksgiving week party for their family and friends, who traveled to Colorado Springs from around the world to attend.

It was so popular, they made it a biennial event: the Shivers Celebration of music and the arts. It included jazz and classical concerts by world-famous musician as well as workshops and master classes for young musicians. There was a large Thanksgiving dinner and church celebration as well as other activities.

On off years, a simple concert series substituted for the larger celebration.

Proceeds from the shows went directly into the Shivers Fund.

Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo. He posed with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988 honoring the black Air Force squadron of World War II. He trained with the squadron. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo. He posed with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988 honoring the black Air Force squadron of World War II. He trained with the squadron. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

Peggy carried on after Clarence’s death in 2007. But she decided the 2013 celebration would be the finale of the series. However, the more simple Shivers Concert Series will continue and feature concerts by classical and jazz musicians.

I met Peggy a year ago. She had just tracked down a painting Clarence created in 1966. It it was the first painting Peggy saw after she met Clarence and almost immediately, she fell in love with both.

(Here’s a link to my March 2013 column.)

But Clarence sold the painting, not knowing how Peggy felt about it. And for 46 years, it was in a private collection.

Today it hangs at the East Branch of the library with a portrait of Peggy and Clarence detailing their contributions to the community.

It’s a nice thank you to the Shivers.

I think it would be great to honor Peggy on her upcoming 75th birthday by doing something special.

Grant her the wish she expressed recently to her friends in an email.

Here’s what she wrote:

Dear Friends,

June of this year will mark a special milestone for me. I will reach the grand old age of 75. When I think of the many friends who have passed on long before reaching this age, I feel immensely blessed to still be around and enjoying the wonderful gift of life God has made possible for me.

To help me celebrate, I am writing to make a very special request of you.
I am a member of Peoples United Methodist Church. We are a very small but loving congregation.

As I thought about how I would like to celebrate my birthday on this momentous occasion, I kept thinking of the many Sundays I have sat in church and wished that all the pews were occupied.

I decided that to see that wish fulfilled would be the best birthday gift I could receive.

So I am writing to ask you to please join me for our church service on Sunday, June 29, and help me celebrate my 75th birthday.

I do hope that you will join me. No need to RSVP. And of course no gifts.

Your Presence is the best gift I could receive.

Love to you all.

Peggy

I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to be in a pew at Peoples, 5110 Tamlin Road, 80938, east of Marksheffel Road, with Peggy’s many friends.

Maybe some of you will join her and make her 75th a special day like all of the special days she has given us.

Maybe you want to just mail or drop off a card.

Since I can’t be there, I’ll just have to be satisfied with offering her this wish:

Happy birthday, Peggy!