Reg and Mabel Peck and their three children: (l to r) Winona, Nancy, and Ronald “Joe”
Two sisters remember their brother, Joe Peck
Ronald “Joe” Peck
January 15, 1940 – April 19, 2010
By Winona Peck Gadapee
Life took a sudden turn, and this is the way I am healing.
My brother, Joe Peck, and his wife Pat had just arrived home from Florida in time to help deliver a breech calf. The cow bolted, pinned him in a doorway, and broke a rib. We heard on Friday that he was hurt, so Saturday night we went to visit and take up some of my “green ambrosia.”
We had a great visit, but it was easy to see that he was in great discomfort whenever he moved and was having difficulty breathing. He was concerned that he was aging, slowing down, and should think of giving up his beloved cattle
A week later, April 19th, he was doing chores and couldn’t breathe. Mid-morning we got a call from my brother’s daughter, Dawn, who explained they were rushing Joe to the hospital by ambulance, and he was in a very serious condition. My husband Arnie just had time to call my sister, Nancy, to let her know, when Dawn called us back that Joe had died. Blood clots in his lungs had moved, blocking oxygen to his heart. I couldn’t believe it. In just those few moments he was gone!
Visiting hours, where some waited for over two hours outside, were eye-opening for me. I heard stories about how Joe was a “teacher” and a “healer of broken souls.” I heard stories about how he helped some get started farming, showed them how to set up their books, how to build a portable saw and help design a barn. So many young men told me how he had pulled them out of the wrong crowd and straightened them out.
I woke up the next day realizing I didn’t even know this man. Do we ever really know a person and all the many facets of their lives?
At Arnie’s suggestion, the funeral was held in the gym at Danville High School where for over 20 years Joe coached basketball, little league, Babe Ruth, high school boys baseball and a baseball town team. There were over 300 people there.
Joe was cremated, and they used his last game ball from his last state tournament to store his ashes. This was set along with his state championship jacket and the Uno cards he played with granddaughter Cassie on the floor under the basketball hoop. These were buried at his cemetery site.
My sister Nancy said as soon as she arrived, “Joe will never have to be in a nursing home and he died still able to do what he loved.” He was 70 years old on Jan 15th of this year. I cannot let myself feel badly. Joe did not have to make the decision to get rid of his precious cattle or change his way of life. He followed God’s way of caring for his earth and maybe left it better than when he came into being. Thanks Joe. I love you so much.
By Nancy Peck Jones
He was my big brother, and we did so much together.
We used to climb up to the top of the silo and play with the baby pigeons. It still surprises me that the mothers didn’t seem to mind that we held their babies.
I remember picking wild strawberries together on the bank next to the brook up in the pasture. Together we picked a whole metal measuring cupful and brought them home to eat on cereal.
At that same spot in the brook, the water flowed between two flat rocks. It sort of resembled a sink, and we even called it “the sink.” We used to put our hands in the water and make a basket with our fingers and a trout would swim into our fingers. We would pull out our hands, holding the trout, just for a few seconds before putting him back in the water. We would go back there on another day, do the same thing, with the same result. This trout seemed to like being taken out of the water. Eventually, I guess we and the trout lost interest in this.
Once when I was six and he eleven, he pumped me up on the swings on the playground at school. I don’t know whatever possessed him, but when he got us up really high, he decided to stand on my shoulders. It’s amazing that we both didn’t get hurt, because I just sort of crumbled under his weight, and we both came crashing down.
We raised rabbits together. We started with two and a year later we had 99. We both loved getting inside the rabbit hutch, watching the mothers with their new babies. We thought we were going to make money by selling them, but we couldn’t even give them away. We ended up letting them go up in the woods, not knowing that they wouldn’t survive in the wild.
We spent a lot of time down by the pond. We both loved frogs and we loved looking for frog eggs. It seems like we would spend hours just sitting on that big rock, watching the water. He built a raft, put an inner tube under it, and poled us around the pond.
To this day I have a phobia of fish hooks. Joe took me fishing in our brook, quite a ways from our house. When he cast out his line, the hook went right through my ear. I think he removed the worm and then we took the long walk back to the house with me attached by hook to the end of his line. I think Mom cut the hook, and then pulled it out with pliers.
Then there was the time we were sliding on the hill behind the house. He had been taking me down the hill on his sled, with him steering. I guess he got tired of going cautiously down the hill with a little kid and wanted to go faster with a bigger kid. At the top of the hill he handed me the sled and I thought he said, “Here, you go ahead” and then he took off down the hill on a toboggan with someone bigger. I couldn’t believe he was letting me go by myself, but I did it anyway, not even knowing how to steer. I slid right into a barbed wired fence at the bottom of the hill and got a big gash in the side of my face, almost taking out my eye. He ran over to me and yelled, “I told you to stay put!” Leaving a trail of blood, we headed back to the house, and then had to wait while Mom finished up her order with the door-to-door Grand Union man before she could take care of me.
I know now that Mom was really afraid of lightning. When I was little, she used to wake us up during a thunderstorm, saying, “Come and watch the pretty lightning.” We would all sit on the porch, bundled in blankets until the storm had passed. I’m guessing now that he was probably old enough to realize the real reason we were doing this, but he never let on.
Sometimes when Joe was with the Hale boys he could be really mean! We were all in the hay loft in the Hale barn, and they all went down the ladder first. Then they took the ladder away and told me I had to jump. They left me up there for what felt like hours. I peed in my pants. Finally he, or somebody else, came back and put the ladder up and helped me get down
He and I would scheme against Winona, because sometimes we resented her big sister bossiness, and she was way too sophisticated for our tastes. One time he pretended to have shut the shop window on me, and my top half was hanging out the window and my bottom half was inside, and I was screaming like I was trapped. Winona came running to “rescue” me, and when she got there we both just laughed at her. She was not amused and told us both off
One fall day we were all digging potatoes in the potato patch. At the end of the day, our parents had gone somewhere, and we were cold, dirty and tired. Joe cooked up some small, just out of the ground potatoes and added butter, cream, salt and pepper. It was the best meal I ever tasted and still is to this day!
Joe actually built a sugar house amongst the maple trees on what was the Calkins land. Together we had a maple sugaring operation. We would collect the sap on a stone boat that was pulled by our horse Babe. I remember how deep the snow was back then, because it was at least up over Babe’s knees. I might have been 10, and he was probably 15. I remember falling asleep on the stack of cedar slabs that he had piled up inside the sugar house for the fire, and waking up all sticky from the sweet steam.
At the end of a hot summer day, Joe drove us up to the beach at Joe’s Pond. We dove in, (there was some sort of dock back then), and when I came back up he asked, “Where are your glasses?” I had forgotten to take them off, and now they were gone. We searched and searched, but the water was all murky because of all the swimmers there, and we couldn’t find them. He had to take me back home, and I was so scared because I couldn’t see, but mostly because I was going to be in big trouble. Joe woke me up very early the next morning, and we went back up to the beach. He found them!! From the end of the dock, he looked down into the water and could see the outline of my glasses where the sediment had settled. Not only did he retrieve my glasses, but he also kept my secret. My mother never found out that I had been so careless.
Later in life, Joe had quit college and was farming. He watched his cows coming down from the pasture and knew something was not right. At the top of the hill above the pond one of his cows dropped. She had tangled in some barbed wire and had severed one of her teats. He tried really hard to save that cow, but eventually she died from the loss of blood. I can vividly remember his desperation and his sadness, as much for the cow as for his financial loss.
I trailed after him for many years, and except for the “Hale incident,” I don’t remember him ever acting like he resented it. I wish we could have gotten that back, but I’m glad for these special memories.
This article was first published in the June, 2010, issue of The North Star Monthly
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