Peggi Reese, appointed to the Yelm Parks Advisory Committee last January, and her husband Jim were selected to lead the 28th annual Christmas in the Park Parade this year. Since the celebration began as a gift to the community from the schools and the city of Yelm, it was only fitting the couple — with a combined 69 years in the school district — was chosen to lead the procession, said Dana Spivey, city staff member assigned to the committee.
Having just met Peggi as a result of her appointment, Spivey is impressed with her energy and heart for the community and kids.
“She’s a kick,” Spivey said.
Peggi described getting the call from former Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cecelia Jenkins informing her they were selected to lead the parade as “exciting.”
“I probably should have talked to Jim about it, but I just said yes right away,” she said.
Jim said no discussion was necessary because they both love Yelm, and it is an honor to be chosen.
When pressed about what is so special about Yelm, they said it is a feeling of belonging. They were each accepted immediately and felt welcome from the very beginning.
She arrived in 1980 and Jim had already been in Yelm for a while. They first met “a long time ago” at a union meeting for school employees. They were both married to someone else. She attended the all male meeting because she was dismayed about being a school secretary and paying the same union dues as the men, who were in the maintenance department, but receiving fewer benefits.
Her presence was not welcome, she said, but eventually the rules were changed. Their children knew each other in school and eventually, 24 years ago, they were married to each other. Between them they have seven children, 13 grandkids, and one great-grandchild.
“We’re still newlyweds,” Peggi quipped Monday.
“They are absolutely amazing,” said Parks Committee Chair Jenkins, who’s know the couple “from the beginning.”
“They’ve supported all the community events, especially those targeting children,” she said.
Peggi Reese is a hard worker and follows through when it comes to volunteering and commitment, Jenkins said.
“She shows up to an 8 a.m. meeting with a smile on her face, enthusiastic and with a positive attitude. She’s genuine and they are both just nice, good people.”
While the parks board was discussing who to choose for this year’s parade, Jenkins said, it took a while for her to realize the perfect choice was right under their noses all along. They had to have secret discussions outside the meeting because Peggi always attended every one.
“She was thrilled and humbled to be asked,” Jenkins said. “It’s funny how you can search around but the obvious answer is right under you. Both Jim and Peggi are positive, great people.”
Although she retired last year, Peggi never stopped volunteering. She currently volunteers at Mill Pond Elementary in Yelm and was recently approved for Rainier Elementary in Rainier because one of her favorite teachers works there now. She joined the parks board because she needs to serve.
“I have to be involved,” she said, “I just have to be.”
Had she worked as a school secretary one more year, she would have had three generations of one family enrolled in the school where she worked. Jim retired in 2013. They’ve done some traveling since, getting family and couple time together. Jim is gravely ill from his contact with Agent Orange while in the Vietnam War. They like to watch birds in the local parks and other places they travel, including Montana. They also like to storm watch and will book a room on the coast when they know a storm is coming in.
“We’re retired,” she said, “so we can do whatever we want.”