Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Peggy Rae Sapienza, RIP

As has been reported in many places, Peggy Rae (McKnight Pavlat) Sapienza died today at the age of 70 of complications from heart surgery a few weeks ago. Like many conrunners, she had a special place in my life. She could be said to be one of the people who put me along the road where I am today in my fannish life, and she certainly can be credited with holding together the 1993 Worldcon committee during a period of crisis.

The 1990 Worldcon was in The Hague, Netherlands. I was the youngest of the six members of the SF in '93 Worldcon bid to make the trip there to run our bid in a bitterly contested four-way race that included the write-in bid for Hawaii launched because of a perception that none of the bids on the ballot was competent. The SF93 bid committee members came into the convention center on set-up day to get our bearings. By chance we were scooped up by Peggy Rae, who didn't really know us, but put us to work setting up the Photo Gallery. This was our mutual introduction, and it went well.

Sometime after we won the bid that became ConFrancisco, the 1993 Worldcon, our first convention chairman, Terry Biffel, convinced Peggy Rae to accept the position of Vice Chair of our Worldcon being held on the other side of the USA from her. Remember, that was a bigger deal then than it is today. Widespread e-mail usage wasn't really a thing. ConFrancisco was the last Worldcon that didn't have a web site. The committee's primary communication tool was a monthly APA (The Never-Ending Meeting) that I founded and for which I was OE for the first half of its run. Taking a senior management position on a far-away committee was a big challenge, and she faced a bigger one soon thereafter.

Terry had been in poor health all the time that I knew him. It turned out to be cancer, and it killed him with our Worldcon only half-way there. Peggy Rae found herself Acting Chair of a Worldcon in California while living and working in the Washington DC area. She somehow kept our committee running on an interim basis while Terry's health worsened and after he died, until the SFSFC Board of Directors named David W. Clark as Terry's successor. Peggy Rae, among many other things, confirmed my appointment as WSFS Division Manager of ConFrancisco, my first division-head position.

Peggy Rae went on to chair a Worldcon outright in 1998 in Baltimore, and she was Fan Guest of Honor of the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago. One of the exhibits there was of a small bit of artificial turf and a toy lawnmower, based on a story about how someone coming to a conrunning meeting at Peggy Rae's home ended up mowing her lawn. I was one of the people who pushed the lawnmower at Chicon and earned a "I Mowed Peggy Rae's Lawn" ribbon for it.

The 2014 Worldcon Chairs Photo Gathering in London was that last time Peggy Rae would be with her fellow Worldcon chairs for our annual photo-op.

Peggy Rae was a second-generation fan. (Her father was one of the people who built the first Hugo Awards.) She was a giant among conrunners. Fandom is diminished by her departure.
Tags: fandom, obituaries, worldcon

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