Peggy Sue Gensaw was born in Crescent City, California on April 26th, 1958 and raised in Klamath, California. A proud member of the Yurok Tribe, she passed away on October 11, 2019 following complications from surgery.
Peggy Sue graduated from Margaret Keating Elementary in Klamath, Del Norte High School in Crescent City in 1976, where she played softball and basketball, and later attended Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. She retired from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, having worked the Title Nine Program under the 1934 Johnson-O’Malley Act.
Growing up with Peggy Sue was always a pleasure to be around. I knew her (and the majority of her family) from a young age, having grown up in Klamath. I knew, like many others, that she’d have a waiting smile and a witty comeback or bit of wisdom when approached.
We even made the newspaper together, along with a couple of other school mates from Klamath.
In the winter of 1975, we had a freakish snow storm that laid down some six-inches of wet slush on Highway 101 between Crescent City, where we were taking the high school activities bus home, and our destination of Klamath. As we approached what we kid’s knew as the 30 mile curve, our van refused to budge as the damp snow was too much for the vehicle to handle.
Under the direction of the CHP, our bus driver, Shirley Baldwin began turning the bus around by making a u-turn. As we came to a stand still, sideways in the roadway, a pickup truck came from the opposite direction and unable to stop struck us broad side.
Only Shirley was injured and had to be looked at by the staff at Seaside Hospital. I was seated in the front passenger seat, with Debbie Wolcott behind me, and Vickie Billy and Peggy Sue behind her.
Everything slowed down — as in a slo-mo movie — as Debbie bounced out of her seat forward, head down towards me. I remember the top of her head hitting me in the face, bending my brand new glasses, jus’ seconds after Shirley shouted, “Hold on, we’re gonna be hit.”
Both Vickie and Peggy Sue bounced around in the back seat. It was Peggy Sue who quipped afterwards, “It’s funny how Tommy’s face is harder than Debbie’s head.”
What a laugh she gave us.
It hurts my heart to know that I will never hear her cheery voice, raucous laughter or any of those witty-wisdom’s she was so generous with throughout our years of knowing one another. And I will for always miss that great big and ever-so willing smile of hers.
Keep the beach fires burning Peggy Sue, we’ll be there before any of us know it.