Peggy Ganopole believes “Life is beautiful; dress accordingly.”
Every day, Peggy gets up, gets dressed and puts on makeup. The “love of her life” died four years ago, so she is not trying to make an impression. She just always has believed in being her best…every day.
Once dressed, Peggy will do the daily crossword puzzle. Then she may go to one of the four yoga classes she attends each week at Club Sport; she may play 18 holes of golf at Legacy Golf Course, sometimes with a gentleman friend, many times with complete strangers. She may attend her monthly meetings of the Las Vegas Kiwis, former flight attendants who worked for TWA or American Airlines. She and a TWA friend may go to the movies. She may trim her rose bushes, pick figs from her backyard fig trees or meet with neighbors on neighborhood watch issues.
Peggy will celebrate her 80th birthday this month. She is bright-eyed, limber, smiles easily and is excited about life. She will fly to southern Massachusetts to celebrate her birthday at her brother, Bob’s, Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery. Family members will include a great niece, Christina, whose eighth birthday is on the same day as Peggy’s 80th. “Christina can celebrate with the cake; I’ll enjoy the champagne,” says Peggy with a wink.
Meeting Peggy Ganopole, one senses that life has been good to her. She eagerly says, “I’ve been blessed.”
Peggy came of age in the 1950s. She headed for Emerson College in Boston to become a speech therapist. While there, she and a friend started a small on-campus radio show. Peggy loved her part-time radio job, decided life had more to offer than three more years of school and wanted to leave college after one year. Her mother wasn’t pleased, but then insisted Peggy attend secretarial school. After a year at Berkley Business College in East Orange, NJ, Peggy had a 140 wpm typing skill, knowledge of shorthand (which she still occasionally uses today) and a much improved business vocabulary.
A summer job at the National Broadcasting Company in New York City resulted in a job offer from Bill Tredwell, vice president of PR, for the Leo Burnett Agency. The attractive young lady from Clifton, New Jersey was paid $500 a month as Tredwell’s secretary “a great salary in those times,” she explained. One assignment with the agency, making travel arrangements for a group to visit Paris, France, brought Peggy into contact with a TWA executive. As part of their conversation, the executive mentioned to Peggy that if she liked travel, perhaps she would be interested in becoming an air hostess. Peggy’s mother had died soon after she had left home and “things weren’t the same without her,” Peggy said. A new adventure, perhaps travel to Paris (she had taken three and a half years of French in high school), seemed like an exciting opportunity.
TWA accepted Peggy as a trainee, and she “soaked up” her training. At the time (1954), that training included everything from how to walk, talk, sit, dress, and use makeup to first aid and customer service. “We couldn’t then be married; we couldn’t wear jewelry and we had height and weight restrictions,” she added. We were weighed every time we checked in for work; our dress and hair had to be just so, and our supervisor would even say something if the seams on our stockings were crooked.” But even with all the rules, Peggy thrived in the job. She loved working with the public, meeting new people and travel.
In June of 1956, Peggy was scheduled for a TWA flight from Los Angeles to Kansas City. A midair collision with a United Airlines plane killed everyone aboard both planes. Peggy had traded schedules with another hostess who asked for a favor because she was soon to be married.
During her 20-year career with TWA (and after the marriage restriction was lifted), Peggy married twice, her second husband dying suddenly. Her father also passed away, having suffered years of depression after his wife died. Peggy soldiered on.
On November 6, 1963, a blind date arrived on her doorstep. At first she closed her eyes, she said, not wanting to ruin the vision she had of the man with the “beautiful voice”. When she opened her eyes, her tall handsome date, named Ray Ganopole, was, for her, a dream come true.. Five weeks later, the two were married.
Peggy went on to work for Eastern Airlines as a recruiter and then as a customer service representative for “Ask Mr. Foster” where her travel agency clients included Paul Newman and family. In 1988, when her husband retired, another adventure awaited. Peggy and her husband moved to the Algarve region of Southern Portugal where they lived for four years, playing golf and traveling throughout Europe. “We never made reservations in advance; we just traveled where we wanted, using our maps and bed and breakfast brochures,” she said. “It was a glorious time.” In 1992, when Ray was diagnosed with a type of leukemia , they returned to the States and decided to live in Henderson, NV. Ray passed away 16 years later.
“My husband made me promise to take care of myself and to go on enjoying life,” she said. “He made sure everything about our lives was in order. Just a few months before he died, he even took me to the Honda dealership where we bought a brand new Honda, paid in full. He didn’t want me to have the bother of monthly payments.”
A constant companion during the last years of her husband’s illness and her beloved companion today is a bright white Lhasa Apso named Daisy. Her gentleman friend Al is her weekend golf buddy, and he and Peggy talk every night.
So once again, life changed for Peggy Ganopole. She believes that winning, in terms of being strong, comes from within and is borne of life’s highs and lows. She also believes in eating properly, exercising and socializing…..meeting people.
Peggy recently spent a perfect Las Vegas evening with a couple she had met at the golf course. They wanted to take Peggy for an early birthday dinner and they did, to Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. “We had a lovely view of the Bellagio fountains, and the restaurant knew we had a birthday in the group. I got free champagne and cake….we had a wonderful time.”