By Carolyn Barbre
At a ceremony to be held on March 15, Peggy Sanders will be honored at the State Capitol as "Woman of the Year" by Assemblyman Bill Maze for her dedication and commitment to the City of Lindsay through her years of public service.
Maze said Sanders serves as an extraordinary example of civic distinction and excellence. Her volunteer work for both the County of Tulare and her home town of Lindsay including community beautifucation through the mural project, exemplifies good citizenship.
"It will be an honor for me to present her as the Woman of the Year representing the 34th Assembly District on the Assembly floor," Maze said.
Peggy began collecting honors way back in the 1960s when she was named a Life Member in the California State PTA (Parent Teachers Association) for her state work as well as work for local schools.
"I was pretty proud of working for the local elementary schools," Sanders said in a phone interview. She is a graduate of all local schools including Lindsay High School, College of the Sequoias where she earned an associate degree in business administration, and Cal State Fresno where she received her bachelor's in speech communications.
Peggy is the wife of District 1 Supervisor Bill Sanders. The couple are celebrating their 25th anniversary this month. Peggy brought three children into the marriage as did Bill, although his two older children never lived with them. But more children were welcomed into their home and hearts.
"Over our life we have taken five additional children, who needed guidance, into our home," Peggy said. "They just kind of showed up, or somebody would say 'Here's Suzy. We don't know what to do with her.' They took in four boys and a girl. Peggy also participated in the Big Sister Program, another way she helped children in need of guidance.
There came a time with the Orange Blossom Festival lapsed and was in danger of becoming extinct. Peggy and Bill "resurrected" it and served as co-chairs. Peggy served on the OBF committee "forever after," until the last three years. But it remains a family tradition as her daughter, Jayne Denni, has picked up the OBF torch, taking the queen and court through every aspect of their service.
The Lindsay Chamber of Commerce also folded at one point and Peggy stepped in as a volunteer. "I did the books. Another guy came in as manager." There were no paid staff back then. "We brought it back to life."
This resulted in Peggy receiving her first time "Woman of the Year" award in 1974, from the chamber she helped resurrect. Another reason she was chosen was for her participation in building the Lindsay High School stadium which was done with all volunteer labor and donated funds.
Peggy has served on Lindsay City Council and was selected as mayor in 1979. She held the position two years and then the Sanders moved just outside the city limits, causing her to step down. "I never approved of a mayor staying on forever," she quipped in an earlier interview.
She founded the Lindsay Community Theater which required finding the funding to renovate the old Lindsay movie theater.
In 1987 Peggy received her second Lindsay Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year Award. In addition to all of the above accomplishments, the chamber recognized her for her participation in the Hospital Guild, the Sister City Committee and her "present affiliation with county-run programs including the Tulare County Association of Governments, the Economic Development Corporation, Community Action Program and Task Force for the Homeless."
No one had ever received a second Woman of the Year Award, but Peggy did that one better. She received her third Woman of the Year Award in 2001 from the chamber for her work on the Lindsay Mural Committee which she chaired, and the Lindsay Cultural Arts Council. "There's not very many people in Lindsay, so they didn't have a big choice," was her response to one man.
There are also some unheralded activities and some serious suffering. "I've had a few grandmothers that I've adopted and saw them through their last days. They were people who had nobody else, no family or friends, or their friends were also old," she said.
In the suffering category, Peggy survived lymphoma, twice, the disease that killed Jackie Kennedy. She has also survived colon cancer. "They're not related. That's really good." Peggy said she is in remission. "You never say cured with lymphoma, but probably it's cured." She spent a year going to Stanford University Cancer Treatment Center where she had to go through chemotherapy. She said they only stopped treatment because it was becoming more harmful to her than the disease. "I was right on the edge. It did save me." Peggy said they have better chemo now. "They found very often what they did before killed the patient."
She now sometimes counsels cancer patients, having survived three bouts with the deadly disease. "My name was out there for people to call who wanted to know that I lived, so they might. Sometimes that's pretty awful though," she added.
About being named the Woman of the Year for the 34th District, the icing on the cake of a lifetime of community service, Peggy said, "The proudest thing to me is that it is Lindsay - that our name is out there. I'm sure Visalia, who never writes anything about us, or rarely, will have to write something about us. So, to me, it's good."
Both she and Bill will be cutting back on activities next year. He is retiring as a county supervisor and Peggy is giving up the presidency of the Lindsay Cultural Arts Council.
Noted for her straight talking, straight forward approach to whatever life brings, she said she has backed off of many activities. "I just can't carry what I used to carry. My mind still has it, but I know that physically I can only go so long, then I get mean," she said.
The California State Assembly's "Woman of the Year" program honors extraordinary women throughout the Golden State who have worked diligently to make their community a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Honorees range from women who have advocated for children's rights to long-time community activists and volunteers.
Outstanding women from throughout the state will join Peggy Sanders in recognition of their service.
Assemblyman Maze represents the 34th District, which includes portions of Tulare, Kern, San Bernardino, and Inyo counties.