Margaret T. Sechrest

margaret sechrest
It is with great sadness that our family mourns the passing of Margaret Ann Thomas Sechrest (“Peggy”), 88, on May 5, 2022, in McLean, Virginia. Born December 29, 1933 in St. Louis, Missouri to Eda and Horatio Thomas, she is survived by her three children, Edward Sechrest, Kim Sechrest, and Dr. Lisa Sechrest Ehrhardt, and their spouses Dr. Love Sechrest and David Ehrhardt, her brother Guy Thomas, six grandchildren (Paige, Nicole and her husband Robert, Jessica, Joshua, Audrey, and Maggie), and one great grandchild (Adeline).

She was predeceased by her husband, Capt. Edward A. Sechrest, whom she married in 1956, an historic event as they became the first Blacks to marry in the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, Annapolis, Md. Together they made the most awe inspiring couple as their close companionship brought humor and wit, stimulating conversation, and daunting challenges as they navigated a world not so ready for such earth shakers. Their marriage was one of her greatest accomplishments as she “Never imagined she’d meet someone as romantic as she and go on to lead such a wonderful life. Outstanding in merit, Peggy adorned the world with her joyful spirit and determination as she fiercely embraced every bit of life’s wonders, never forgetting how fortunate we all are to be here. The military afforded her travel throughout the U.S. and world, taking her to Greece and England. Her favorite tours of duty were in Newport, R.I., which she considered her home, second only to St.Louis, MO. In these two places she found safe harbor. Indeed, there was much time spent away from her husband during his deployments, but she forged close friendships with Ed’s shipmates’ families and the bonds were life long. A visit from Chip Honsinger to deliver gifts from the April Naval Academy Reunion was followed by a call from Roger Lyle, both naval academy classmates, just a day before she entered the hospital–the Navy stood by Peggy to the very end. A survivor of both Polio and Cancer, she brought strength and courage to her final battle to endure the hardships of a stroke, giving us one more wonderful, though difficult, year together.

Peggy graduated from Sumner High School in St. Louis and went on to graduate from Howard University, with a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology. She later pursued a career in Interior Design, first as Bloomingdale’s Home Designer and Consultant, followed by her own business, PS Interiors. But these professional degrees never interfered with her passion for the Arts, especially opera and the symphony, and her love for great film and the stars who adorned the big screen. She could name every detail of most movies and recount the lives of all the stars, from Betty Davis in Now Voyager to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, or Shirley Jones, Carousel, the last musical she watched and sang together with her grandchildren.

Above all, Peggy adored her family. She never lost sight of what mattered most, and throughout her life, she was the sound-minded, steady one who provided good judgment and strength, ensuring that everyone moved forward during tough times and soared during the best of times. Proudest mom ever, there was never an opportunity for anyone to fail as she lent guidance at every turn. Hers were the lifting wings that only Angels could know. And it is that very soft, blessed spirit that will guide us in the days and years to come.

Known for her loyalty, her word was her honor, and she held to it. This loyalty extended well beyond her immediate family. Such honor was accompanied by a fierce sense of responsibility to shield, protect, and defend her family. Sometimes the problem here though was in the inability for her to distinguish family from friends. All of us know of the times she has stood up for someone. Ida Anderson chuckles when she tells how “Nobody could ever tell Peggy a bad thing about her husband Carl”, “Oh, no. I don’t believe it. Not Carl,” Peggy would say. She protected him like she would a brother and “she just wouldn’t stand for anyone speaking out against a family member. Carl was wonderful, both her high school, and later Howard University, class president. “How could anyone ever say a word against Carl?”

This knowledge and understanding of people and their character, and her willingness to stand up for someone, was rivaled by her uncanny ability to remember everything, from the color of a dress someone wore the day she met them to the names of their family members, including distant cousins. Peggy was the family historian, so keen in her knowledge of people and the most intimate details of their lives, often recalling things that even they could not remember. The good, and the bad that she made sure to lighten up with her humor. One of the best stories she told throughout the years was of the time her husband, unthinkingly, walked through a brood of goslings, becoming a threatening trespasser. Peggy always tried to hold back her laughter asking, “Ed, Do you remember the time when…” as he continuously shook his head saying no. It goes that he was operating out of an in-country installation in Viet Nam, walking across a field when he obliviously entered enemy territory facing his fiercest of foes, mother goose. His fellow soldiers looked on as she viciously attacked him. Trying to get away worsened things. What made Ed’s fellow officers laugh so raucously when they told the story to Peggy was that he refused to pull out his gun to shoot, despite the aggressiveness of the mother. What kept Peggy laughing throughout the years was the image of him swatting and fending off an angry female. Just like her husband Ed, her stories got longer and better with time. Laughter softened the blows of war and separation, and kept her balanced. Whether finding humor in life or simply telling ordinary tales about life, and we know her stories could last for hours, she found delight in the simplest of things. And this made her beautiful. During this final Christmas, she would ask that the tree lights be kept on. Her family plugged them in every morning, a ritual lasting for 3 months. It was the perfect backdrop for the harsh reality of the final evening of life as she continued with her stories–and smiles, when she could.

Never missing an opportunity to celebrate, she enjoyed every invitation that came her way. She could go from a simple lunch with her daughters, to a 10-hour holiday road trip to Atlanta with her son, or spending every New Year’s Day for black-eyed peas with Jake and Carol, the Fourth with Carl and Ida, and time with the Clays whom she would boast “included her in everything”, or a trip to visit her brother Guy at Christmas in sub zero temperatures, on her walker no less. Not sure of how she’d make it around once arriving, she spent the year after talking endlessly about Earciel who opened her home to Peggy and helped her up the stairs each night, and about Velma who greeted her at the airport and helped her get around town. In the most difficult times, with the loss of mobility, folks came through. Often unable to visit her brother Guy in St. Louis, Velma made sure to visit him and bring gifts. There were many reasons, but it was for this above all, that she loved Velma, profoundly. Just one example of the depth of her bond to others. Peggy was unmatched in her love for her friends. Those others she loved could be a Gene who never passed her home without stopping by, or a Billie Jean who never stopped calling and visiting. Then there was her cousin Phyllis, who sent card after card, and made call after call. “That’s my Baby Cousin Phyllis,” Peggy would cry. And that’s Janet my First Friend, and that’s Nancy my cousin from Chicago, and Brockman, he’s a Schumacker, and so on … She knew and cherished them all. And there was Dotti and Leon, and Laura and Carol, and Mrs. Wilson, an angel called “Maxine”, who floated so gracefully throughout this difficult year.

For Peggy, the greatest joy and gift to others was her desire to be with them and a part of their lives. From the St. Louis Club and the No Name Book Club, and her Restonian Video Chat Group, to the Naval Academy Reunions and Class of ‘56 Luncheons, she was always included. On her end, she always made sure to be there, first to arrive, last to leave. Sometimes tired from an evening out, it never stopped her from going on to another event the next day as she always insisted her “mother warned that she must take part in life now for she’d have an eternity to sleep at the very end,” as she peacefully rests now, having fulfilled her dreams of family, friendship, love, and all life’s passions–the most anyone could desire. And which she, of all people, truly deserved.

Her family will continue to honor her legacy by living life to its fullest.

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  1. The Owners and Staff at the Money and King Funeral Home, wish to express our sincere sympathy to you. It is our hope that we may be able to make a difficult time more bearable. Please feel free to call us anytime as we are always available to you. Bob Gallagher Funeral Director

  2. I’m cousin Phyllis’s son Michael and I remember my first and only visit to cousin Peggy when I was 10 years old. I remember her being so sweet and protective of me because at the time they had that huge St. Bernard and I was scared to death but she reassured me he wouldn’t do me harm and gradually I became at ease enough that I was taking pictures with the dog to show my friends back home in St. Louis how big he was! Cousin Peggy will be missed by me and especially my mother who adored her big cousin and loved her like a sister.

  3. I have so many wonderful and funny memories of my dear friend Peggy. I will just tell you one that shows how big her heart was: When our two families lived in Newport, Rhode Island, our children were playing in Peggy’s backyard and the ball went over into the Peggy’s Neighbor’s yard. My son was the youngest of all of the children so they put him in the neighbor’s year to retrieve the ball. So, later at dinner, the story got back to all of the adults and Peggy cried: “They put the baby over the fence to get the ball?” She thought that was such an injustice because he was so little. What a big heart she had and she was so very sensitive with little ones. I love you Peggy. -Maxine Wilson

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