NEWS- Perpetual Pere<i>gory</i>: Hero's misspelled memory lives on
Historical markers, above all, strive for accuracy. That's why it's so odd to find a marker in Charlottesville with not one, but three errors.
And these mistakes are unlikely to be corrected.
The marker honoring Technical Sergeant Frank D. Peregory was installed in 1994, shortly after the 50th anniversary of D-Day, at the corner of Emmet Street and University Avenue. Albemarle Supervisor Sally Thomas was there that day standing beside a family member, who confirmed that the family spells the name Peregoy, with no second "r."
"As a politician who goes door to door," Thomas says, "I knew there were Peregoys who lived in my district. But the mistake has taken on a life of its own."
Indeed. Now there's an armory named for "Peregory," and the street outside the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail is "Peregory Road."
The Charlottesville phone directory lists six Peregoys and zero Peregorys.
The late Frank Peregoy was one of eight children, and the marker spelling seems to be a sensitive family issue. Some members would like to see it corrected, while others aren't bothered by the misspelling. One became so agitated upon hearing that another story about the error was being written that she threatened, "Print it, and watch my smoke!"
Almost as soon as the marker was installed, a July 19, 1994, Daily Progress account of the dedication has family members confirming that Frank spelled his name as they do: Peregoy. The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society keeps a file on the family, and has an obituary of his widow, Bessie Kirby Peregoy.
Historian Rick Britton wrote an article about the heroics of this soldier for Albemarle magazine. "The real name is Peregoy," reiterates Britton. "Apparently the mistake was made in his military records." In addition, adds Britton, Peregoy's date of birth on the marker is incorrect.
"When he joined the National Guard, he falsified his birth date," says Carl D. "Chubby" Proffitt, 87. "His name is spelled that way in his enlistment papers." Proffitt says he was within 30 feet of Peregoy in France on the 1944 day when Peregoy was shot and killed by a German machine-gunner.
"I think these guys who served with him knew him as Peregory," says Mark Wagner, National Register manager at the Department of Historic Resources. That's how his Medal of Honor is spelled. "As careful as we are– sometimes we have as many as 15 reviewers," Wagner says, "sometimes something slips. The foundry people have found mistakes."
The Peregory marker was sponsored and paid for by veterans from the 29th Infantry Division. If the Department of Historical Resources makes a mistake, it pays to correct the marker; if the sponsor made the mistake, it pays. The Peregory/Peregoy imbroglio is a gray area.
"I think we have grounds for how different versions of his names were spelled," says Wagner. "If the Medal of Honor was different, we would have changed it."
Wagner suggests the possibility of scraping off the "r" and "y" in the marker's title, and putting the "r" in brackets. "That would be a compromise," he says. But changing the spelling throughout the marker would require a re-casting, and unless family or veterans launch a campaign to correct it, that's unlikely to happen.
"It doesn't bother me one bit," says Don Peregoy, 79, Frank's youngest brother. "I think it has been misspelled way, way back, and more people know him by that name."
He points out the third mistake on his brother's marker: "Frank was not born in Albemarle; he was born in Nelson."
The family came from France. "The name has been spelled every way imaginable," says Don Peregoy. "Back in the old days, the Peregoys were not a very literate group of people."
He describes Frank as "quite the manly type, ready to fight if that was what was needed." But apparently Frank was less perturbed about how his surname was spelled.
So is Don, who sees no reason the marker should be changed. "I'm not bothered by it– and I don't see why total strangers should be," he says.
Joanne Peregoy is a Peregoy by marriage; Frank was her husband's uncle. She is aware that the spelling of the family name has variations that include an "r," but she believes the Charlottesville branch has not spelled it that way in a long time.
"I was kind of disappointed," she says of the marker spelling, "and that sign at the jail is the same." Ditto the U.S. Army reserve center on Cherry Avenue.
"It would be nice if they got it spelled right," says Joanne Peregoy.
Sally Thomas has been intrigued by the marker's story over the years. "As far as I know, the family has remained graciously silent as these mistaken signs of respect travel onward," she says, "but I think our community would show more respect for a true hero of WWII if the name were correct."
The historical marker at Ivy Road and Emmet Street commemorating the bravery of Technical Sergeant Frank D. "Peregory" contains three errors, according to historians and family.
PHOTO JASON WATSON
In this Northern Virginia sign, the name is spelled "Peregory."
PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER