Oh, Kay! Liberal activist, editor Peaslee leaving Charlottesville
She covered news as the founder of the Observer, a long-lasting weekly paper, and made news as an activist who, along with her late husband Alexander "Sandy" Peaslee, pushed for the controversial–- but ultimately unsuccessful–- reversion of Charlottesville to town status. Now, Kay Peaslee is preparing to start a new chapter.
"I'm moving to Indianapolis, to be near my youngest daughter," says Peaslee, sitting in her spacious downtown McGuffey Hill condo while her oldest daughter, Sarah Peaslee, packs boxes and sorts family photos in preparation for her mother's Thursday, March 4 departure.
Now 87, Peaslee says the decision to move was fairly sudden.
"I wasn't thinking about it, but my son-in-law called and wanted me to come live in a retirement community across the street from their house," she explains. And while excited to move closer to her three granddaughters–- the youngest still in high school–- she finds leaving Charlottesville "terribly hard," she says. "I have so many very important connections with it, and I will miss it terribly."
Kay and Sandy Peaslee arrived in Charlottesville in 1972 when Sandy–- a former diplomat whose career had previously stationed the family in far-flung locations including Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Brazil–- entered UVA Law School.
Although she retained a fascination for the Far East, Peaslee–- who graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a B.A. in political science–- found small town Charlottesville suited her.
"It's ideal in many respects," says Peaslee, "ecologically, intellectually, democratically."
She volunteered for organizations including Planned Parenthood, the United Way, and the League of Women Voters, and founded the McGuffey Readers book club. For decades, she remained a fixture at City Council meetings and supported her husband's late 1990 bid for U.S. Congress against ultimately victorious incumbent Republican D. French Slaughter Jr.
While Peaslee never made a secret of her liberal politics, she remained an "independent voice," says former Democratic city councilor Meredith Richards, particularly praising Peaslee's oversight of the Observer.
"She's a woman who knows her mind and speaks it, and backed it up with many many good works in the community," says Richards.
Despite her advancing years, Peaslee–- whose husband died of cancer in 1996–- says she eagerly follows hot-button issues such as her hope that America might not only emulate the Canadian health care system but also (as she laughs uproariously) lend Sarah Palin to the northern nation.
In February, the McGuffey Readers honored Peaslee with a going-away luncheon–- an event for which 24-year-old grandson Alex Davis penned a short biography.
"Her legacy as an intellectual and radical leader," he wrote, "will continue to spur her family and friends to action and liberal thought."
And Richards voices a simpler sentiment: "She will be missed."
Correction: The Observer was not Charlottesville's first weekly paper.–ed