2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Side Streets readers grant Peggy Shivers’ birthday wish

Published: July 11, 2014, 8:00 am, by Bill Vogrin

Peoples United MethodistHallelujah for Side Streets readers.

You made Peggy Shivers‘ 75th birthday one to remember.

Let me refresh your memories.

On June 6, I asked readers to give Peggy a birthday present to thank her for all she and her late husband, Clarence Shivers, have done for Colorado Springs.

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 posing with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

Clarence was part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen black pilot fighter squadron in World War II. He was also a painter and sculptor.

Peggy is a classically trained opera soprano.

After the couple moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, they became active in the community.

In 1993, they established the Shivers Fund to buy books and reference materials by and about African-Americans for the Pikes Peak Library District. The fund led to creation of the Shivers African-American Historical and Cultural Collection with an inventory exceeding 1,000 and an endowment of $100,000 or so.

The collection chronicles the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts. And the fund distributes scholarships of $3,000-$4,000 to young people interested in studying the arts.

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

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

Clarence and Peggy also launched the Shivers Celebration of music and the arts, hosting jazz and classical concerts by world-famous musicians along with workshops and master classes for young musicians every other year.

Clarence died in 2007 and Peggy has carried on their work. This past Thanksgiving she announced she would no longer host the celebrations.

It made me think it was time to thank her.

So with her 75th birthday approaching, Peggy told me she didn’t want any presents but she’d love for her friends to join her for church services June 29 at Peoples United Methodist Church on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs.

I asked you, Side Streets readers, to grant her birthday wish.

And I’m tickled to report you made me proud.

More importantly, you made Peggy incredibly happy.

On a riverboat in Budapest, Hungary, I received an email from Peggy, who sounded ecstatic.

Here’s what she wrote:

“Just wanted to let you know that my birthday was WONDERFUL!! The church was packed with standing room only. It was FANTASTIC. Thanks again for helping to make my wish come true.”

Her email made my day.

So when I got back, I called Peggy’s pastor, Bill Gamble, to get the details.

Pastor Bill Gamble preached to a standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014, as people filled it to help celebrate Peggy Shivers' 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

Pastor Bill Gamble preached to a standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014, as people filled it to help celebrate Peggy Shivers’ 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

“It was exciting,” he said. “It was successful in a big way. We typically get 50 people for Sunday services. We prepared for over 100 and we had more than 140 that day.”

Many were friends of Peggy’s but some were strangers who simply wanted to say thanks.

City Councilwoman Jan Martin was there. Same for longtime community leader Mary Ellen McNally.

There were other pastors and chaplains who attended, Gamble said, and folks of other denominations who never had visited the 111-year-old church, which was founded by freed slaves who came to Colorado Springs with the daughter and son-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

“It was very multi-cultural,” Gamble said. “It blossomed like a rainbow. It was a great worship experience.”

A few even promised to come back and Gamble hopes they do.

“I had a couple Catholics come up after the service and say they enjoyed it,” Gamble said with a laugh. “I said God is here, too.

“Hopefully, they will come back. We were glad to have them.”

Peggy was glad, too.

Peggy Shivers, standing in center, thanks the standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014. People filled the church to celebrate Shivers' 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

Peggy Shivers, standing in center, thanks the standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014. People filled the church to celebrate Shivers’ 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

Overwhelmed, actually, Gamble said.

And flattered, she told me.

“It was just wonderful,” she said. “It was just everything I wished for and more.”

In an email, she again stressed how happy the turnout made her.

“I greatly appreciated each and everyone who came being there,” Peggy said. “I TRULY LOVED SEEING EVERY SINGLE PERSON that attended.”

I was sorry I couldn’t be there.

But I’m so proud of all of you who filled the pews. Thank you.