Congressman Christopher Shays remembers his late mother
Margaret "Peggy" Oliver Shays, a long-time resident of Darien, died last Thursday, Feb. 25. She was 97.
"My mother raised four boys," said former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays. "And I think any mom who raises four boys deserves sainthood."
Shays remembers his mother as a caring woman with a thirst for new experiences.
"She was a transition from the woman of yesteryear and the woman of today, and I got to see it first hand," he said.
"She was raised to believe that a woman stayed at home and raised her kids, and by the time I was the born, she wanted to do more than that. And I remember the first tensions between my mom and my dad, when she was asked to be the clerk of our church. And he wasn't thrilled that she would take on this responsibility, but he ultimately agreed. Then she got to the point where she wanted to take speed writing so she could do a better job. So she told him she wanted to go to school. He was reluctant, but she ultimately did that.
"Then she was asked to teach at the [Lee Johnson School of Business in Norwalk] when I was probably in junior high school, so she did that. Then she was asked to run the school, and I remember my dad having a little concern about that, but he ultimately agreed. And then she ended up buying the school, and my dad left his job to help her with the school," the Congressman said.
"She loved the contact she had with the young women in particular. Teaching them the skills: how to dress; how to talk; how to conduct themselves in a business environment. She loved that, and I think they loved her," he said.
She also loved her family dearly, and was a devoted wife and mother, according to her youngest son.
"She cut all our hair," Shays said with a laugh. "I didn't go to a professional barber until I went off to college. And she told us that that was the only way she could learn what we were up to that month. She had us as a captive audience. It was her strategic opportunity to learn what I was up to and make sure she got a few words in about how I should be leading my life.
"She was an incredible woman, and I just miss her," he said.
"I think that she just had a wonderful run."
Mrs. Shays was born in Rose Valley, Pa., where her parents owned a theater. Congressman Shays described her as a young actress when she met her late husband, Thurston Crane "Bud" Shays in the theater.
"My dad was a popular band leader, and they both acted on Broadway," Shays said.
"So when they were first married, my dad had a band, and he left that and got out of show business to support a family with a more normal lifestyle," he said. "My mom and dad basically left their careers to raise their four boys."
The family lived on Delafield Island Road in Darien, and Mrs. Shays drove her husband to and from the train station every day for 40 years. She and her husband were both members of the Tokeneke Club, and she continued to play tennis well into her 90s.
"They made us realize we were so blessed to live in the United States of America, and so fortunate to have been raised in Darien. All three of my brothers and I were shaped by this wonderful town. They loved the town. They loved being able to have their kids go to school in Darien," Shays said.
Mrs. Shays is survived by her sons and daughters-in-law, Christopher and Betsi Shays, Peter and Mary Shays, Tony and Betty Shays, Michael and Nancy Shays; nine grandchildren; and 16 great grandchildren.
The family is planning a private memorial service in her honor.