Devoted mother, loving wife, lifelong activist
Peggy Rhoades died at her Pomona home on Thursday, January 2, two weeks, almost to the hour, after her husband of 60 years died. She was 79.
Born in a tent in Alabama, Mrs. Rhoades spent her formative years in South Bend, Indiana. As a girl, she collected oil from neighbors for the World War II effort and corresponded with an uncle who served under General George Patton. At Riley High School, she was an honor student and member of the Booster Club, Y-Teens, Red Cross and Senior Cabinet.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in science from Central Connecticut State College in 1961, performing her student teaching at Troop Junior High School while pregnant with her second child. During this time she also typed the 600-page dissertation for her husband, Dan, who was completing his PhD at Yale Divinity School.
Mrs. Rhoades moved to Pomona in 1968 and, while raising her children, resumed her activism. She held positions in the Claremont League of Women voters, including president. She also helped refugees from Vietnam transition into life in America, assisted international students attending the Claremont Colleges find housing and campaigned for candidates of the Democratic Party.
As an advocate for civil rights and workers’ rights, she supported the Cesar Chavez-led fight for field workers’ rights, including boycotting the produce industry and planting and tending her own garden, which was used to feed her family.
She also worked at the Claremont College’s Honnold Library as the head of inter-library loan for 15 years.
Mrs. Rhoades was fierce in her pursuit of causes about which she felt strongly. She had a particular focus on uplifting the less fortunate and was fiercely loving and protective of her family.
Her husband once said of her: “She’s my tigress.”
In her leisure time, she enjoyed gardening, reading, bird watching and sketching pastels of birds, genealogy and traveling. She visited Europe, South Korea and Latin America. She also traveled the United States extensively and enjoyed taking day trips to The Huntington Library in San Marino, the cozy town of Seal Beach and other places.
Her daughter, Stephanie, likened her to a hummingbird: slight of stature but full of energy.
She was put to rest at Oak Park Cemetery in Claremont, next to Mr. Rhoades, who she started dating when she was 13 and married when she was 19.
She is survived by children Gary, Stephanie and Brady and granddaughters Elizabeth, Olivia and Corey.