A Life Lived: Peggy Richardson’s Cat Island roots created an independent thinker

Published 12:43 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Peggy Richardson’s Cat Island roots went deep. She was one of 11 children of Taft and Grace Bradshaw Campbell and she had numerous cousins who also lived in Cat Island. In fact, she was one of the “Rusty Six,” a group of cousins in that end of town who hung out together. With Peggy’s death, there is the only remaining member of the group — Dorothy Rasnick. “Peggy was one of my best friends. We went to school and church together, played together, and up until her death we talked often,” said Dorothy.
Peggy was a life-long member of First Free Will Baptist Church and as long as she could, was faithful in her church attendance as was her late husband, Frank Richardson, a retired Tennessee Highway Patrolman and Washington County commissioner. Her husband was also a former deacon of the church.
“She loved her church and was a good Christian lady,” said Betty Hughes, who for many years was in the same Sunday School class as Peggy. “She was very smart and intelligent, but also very independent,” Betty added.
“I remember that for a number of years she helped prepare the turkeys for the church’s Thanksgiving dinner. Peggy was a very giving person and she loved the Lord,” Betty added.
Cousin Dorothy shared that Peggy attended Duffield Academy and Elizabethton High School. “She was really a sharp girl. She had a soft voice and laughed a lot. When we were growing up, we hung out a lot together. We spent many summer days playing in the Doe River and there’s not a tree on Main Street that we couldn’t climb,” Dorothy said with a chuckle.
She shared a story of when the two were just girls and they went down to the courthouse to watch a parade. The two climbed upon the porch railings at the courthouse to get a better view and low and behold, Peggy fell off the railing and onto the ground below. “It knocked her out and scared me to death. I ran home to get someone, and while I was gone, Coy Fair, a Cat Island neighbor, recognized it was Peggy. She was taken to the old St. Elizabeth Hospital (now Ivy Hall Nursing Home), where she was treated for a broken arm. Dr. Frost set her arm,” said Dorothy.
Another story she shared occurred during World War II when the Cat Island girls as well as others would gather up at the old Electric System building (now the site of City Hall) to watch the convoys of soldiers as they passed through town traveling to bases. “Often the boys would throw out pieces of paper or cards with their addresses on them. Peggy wrote to one of them and later he came to see her. And, would you know, she run him off. I think he was from New York,” hooted Dorothy with much laughter.
However, Peggy did later find the love of her life while she was working at the old Lynnwood Cafe as a waitress. She and husband Frank were married 47 years when he died.
At the time of his death Frank was serving as a Washington County commissioner, and Peggy was appointed by the commission to fill his unexpired term. She later ran for the office and was elected. She served three or four terms before deciding not to seek re-election.
She and Frank were the parents of a son, Kelly, who lives in Johnson City as did Peggy.
When Peggy got to where she was unable to attend church, she enjoyed watching Pastor Jimmy Swaggart on television.
“She always read her Bible and had a good knowledge of it. She tried to live it as well,” said Dorothy.
“Peggy was such a good person and I sure am going to miss her. She was genuine,” said Dorothy, who has a sackful of stories about growing up with Peggy in Cat Island.
“Once we went trick or treating and we went to this boarding house on Main Street and knocked on the door. This older gentleman came to the door and he didn’t realize it was Halloween and he fixed us some crackers and cheese for our treat,” Dorothy lovingly shared.
Growing up, they spent a lot of weekends at Harmon Field playing ball. “Ralph Perry would gather us up and by the time we got there, there would be a dozen or more of us. He was a big part of our growing-up years,” said Dorothy.
Another favorite thing she and Peggy enjoyed doing was frying green tomatoes and potatoes in the summer. “I don’t know if they were as good as we thought they were or we just enjoyed the time together,” the friend shared.
She noted that her cousin Peggy enjoyed singing and was a member of the high school glee club. In later years her favorite hymn was “This is my story…this is my song…praising my savior all the day long.”
Today, Peggy is singing with the angels in heaven…and you can bet she’s waiting on Dorothy.
Peggy Richardson died Nov. 15 and was buried at Happy Valley Memorial Park. Her remaining siblings are Darrell Ann Fair, James “Bo,” Paul, and Harold Bill Campbell.

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