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Around the world, she became 'Aunt Peggy'

By STEPHEN NOHLGREN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 15, 2007


PALM HARBOR - Peggy Joan Schlorholtz didn't shy away from introducing herself to her future husband when they found themselves alone in study hall at Iowa's Wall Lake High School.

She threw an orange at him.

"I was doing my homework hurriedly so I could do basketball after school when I saw something coming through the air," Al Schlorholtz recalled Wednesday. "I reached out and caught it and I never looked back."

Her knack for forming quick, strong relationships carried beyond that study hall to villages and towns of Pakistan and Nepal, where she and Al worked as Presbyterian missionaries for 35 years.

She often taught English to young women, so they could get jobs. She hosted big tea parties on her back lawn, mixing Christians with Muslims, rich with poor, educated with uneducated. She made friends so easily that dozens of families used her as a matchmaker when their youngsters reached marriageable age.

"Everyone called her "Mother" or "Aunt Peggy," her daughter Esther Schlorholtz recalled. "They came to her with their most precious possessions, their children. That was very special to her."

She loved saris, the colorful garb of Pakistani women. She wore them constantly, Esther said. Friends would give them to her as gifts, and at times, her closet held as many as 50.

When Lahore became a border battleground between Pakistan and India, U.S. authorities told its citizens to leave. Bullets from airplane dogfights sometimes zinged into the yard, Esther recalled.

But Peggy refused to go. In fact, she took in the family of a Pakistani soldier who was being held as a prisoner of war in India. After hostilities abated, a Pakistani officer presented the family with an artillery shell inscribed to "the only American family in Lahore in 1965."

In their 50s, Al and Peggy moved to Nepal, where she served as a hospital social worker and translator. To learn Nepali, she and Al lived with a family in a mud hut, sharing outdoor toilet facilities and simple food.

"We ate dal bhat (lentil soup and boiled rice) for 39 straight days," Al recalled.

In 1989, the couple retired to Palm Harbor. Their son, Stan, who lived in Pinellas, said it would remind them of Pakistan - full of palm trees, heat, humidity and mosquitoes.

Twelve years ago, Peggy was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Al took care of her at home until two months ago. She died Saturday at Manor Care in Dunedin at age 82.

Now, letters and e-mails are arriving from friends around the world. "I am another person who was greatly touched by aunty Peggy's life and love," a Pakistani woman now living in Australia wrote to Al. "She played a starring role in my childhood and I cherish memories of her wide smile and her all-encompassing hugs. Observing Aunty Peggy and my mother together showed me how much fun and strength you can get from a truly loving friendship.

"It set a benchmark for me without me even realizing it."

 

BIOGRAPHY:

Peggy Joan Schlorholtz

Born: March 16, 1925.

Died: Nov. 10, 2007.

Survivors: husband, Alfred Schlorholtz, Palm Harbor; brothers, Willard Hoft, of Huntsville, Ala., and Harrison Hoft, of Falls Church, Va.; sister, Hope Arnold, of Atlanta; sons, Stan Schlorholtz, of Branford, and John Schlorholtz, of Belmont, Mass.; daughters Esther Schlorholtz, of Newton, Mass., and Hope Phillips of Austin, Texas, and three grandchildren.