Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Peggy O's Memorial Bench

Last summer, a noted naturalist and birder, Peggy Spiegel Opengari, passed away. In her honor, the New River Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists has installed a bench at Pearisburg Library. The chapter also donated money to The Nature Conservancy as Peggy requested in her will.

Peggy was a well-known birder and founding organizer of the Mountain Lake Birding Festival. She was very active with the local bird club, conducting many of the field trips with her husband. She was also involved at the state level (Virginia Society of Ornithology).

Peggy Spiegel Opengari Memorial Bench

Peggy took her grandchildren often to the Pearisburg Library so it was fitting that a bench would be placed there. Debbie, fellow Virginia Master Naturalist, and I are conducting Peggy Spiegel Opengari Nature Journal Workshops for children every summer as well--also supported by the master naturalist chapter.

Close up of Plaque on Bench

I met Peggy for the first time 5 years ago when I wanted to go beyond identifying birds at the feeder. I went on the New River Bird Club's website and saw they were having a field trip at Pandapas Pond. I just showed up there and Peggy made me feel like a friend right away. I remember learning to identify the yellow-bellied sapsucker. When I arrived home later that day, I spotted the bird right away in our woods. I know I will never be the birder that Peggy was (I don't even have a life list!) but I was inspired by Peggy's enthusiasm for birdwatching.

When I installed the plaque the other day, a woman with her two children asked me what I was doing. I told her about Peggy. The woman thought it was a nice bench in a good place (right outside the entrance). She said she must have been a special lady and I said she was.

Through the bench and the nature journal workshops, I hope Peggy's legacy will live on.


  1. This is a terrific gesture. Peggy was a wonderful woman whose life deserves to be commemorated in every way possible. We will all miss her.

  2. Bill--I agree that Peggy was a wonderful woman and great birder! Thanks for commenting. I understand there will be another bench for her to be at Glen Alton by the bird club and a scholarship in her name by VSO.

  3. What a fitting tribute. I almost feel as if I knew her. Very nice post in her honor.

  4. What a great idea to remember such a good teacher. People can sit on that bench and watch for birds, or take a bird guide from the library and read it on that bench!

  5. NCmountainwoman--thanks. You would have really liked her and she you.

  6. letspaintnature--we worked with the Director of the library to select the location. She said often people are standing outside waiting for the library to open so she knew it would be used there. We also get a lot of Appalachain Trail hikers who use the internet at the library (only place in town).

  7. Peggy was my 7th grade science teacher at Cave Spring Middle School waaaay back in 1978. She was, and is still, my favorite teacher. She became a dear friend to me. One of my fondest memories is when she invited me to go with her to do a bird count at several dozen bird boxes along some country roads. It meant so much to me that she included me in this activity. She was a very special woman and I'll miss her. Michael