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Longtime Fox Chapel library volunteer steps down, stays active

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Peggy McGowan

Peggy McGowan is a nonagenarian, but the term — meaning she is in her 90s — doesn't hint at her vibrant nature or her wealth of memories.

Many know the active woman as a volunteer at the local library.

This summer, after more than 30 years of helping at the Cooper-Siegel Community Library and its earlier edition, Lauri Ann West, Peggy retired.

McGowan remembers the move from Lauri Ann West, which was in the former Boyd Elementary School along Powers Run Road in O'Hara to the new site along Fox Chapel Road in Fox Chapel.

She especially remembers unpacking the items for the children's library.

Seemingly endless boxes of books, she said, had to be shelved before the new library opened.

“I saw it grow, which was wonderful. At first, we didn't have many people, then, gosh, it got busy,” McGowan said.

During her volunteer days, McGowan kept busy with the nitty gritty duties of working at a library: manning the desk, shelving books and making sure the materials were organized correctly.

The staff respected Peggy's three decades of dedication, and the Fox Chapel matron enjoyed volunteering weekly.

“I like working with people and books,” she said. “They aren't dull. There is always something to talk about.”

In fact, before moving to Fox Chapel, McGowan owned a book store in Mt. Lebanon called the Bookmark.

“I loved it,” she said. “We went to the ABA (American Booksellers Association) meetings in Washington (D.C.).”

McGowan had the chance to hear authors such as David Eisenhower and John Chiardi during her volunteering days, and those are two of her favorite memories.

A visit with McGowan at her Berkshire home turns into an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

The house started as a “Fox box,” she said, meaning it was built like many others, in a square footprint with two floors.

On the back of her house is a family room addition filled with mementos of travel to Asia. The room also is packed with books.

Her first trip to Europe came in 1938, when she was a teenager.

She toured Berlin and christened a ship.

“I've been all over the world. I try to tell my children things I think they would be interested in,” she said.

In her office, where she uses her computer for a variety of activities, McGowan has a wall covered with family pictures.

McGowan, who moved to Fox Chapel in 1975, said she has two families, one by her first husband and another with her second husband.

She said she finds living in Pittsburgh to be fascinating — “the museum, the Frick. I try to do as many of those things as I can.”

She also enjoys keeping active.

McGowan said she tries to swim every day in the summer and bowls in a league.

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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