Paul Peachey (right) at a book signing in 2007. Peachey, a former instructor in the EMU Bible and religion department, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 18. He was 93. Photo by EMU marketing and communications.

EMU Grad Remembered For Adventurous Spirit

Right around 2 one morning in 1951, Cal Redekop felt somebody kick his sleeping bag.

It was odd. Especially considering the makeshift campsite that Redekop and friends Richard Wagner and the late Paul Peachey had chosen was isolated atop a hill in Athens, Greece.

They had settled in the evening before and ate a modest dinner as they marveled at what Redekop said was the perfect campsite with a perfect view, the sun setting on the Parthenon.

But the police kicking up dirt clearly had another opinion.

“I was taken down to the Athens police station,” Redekop, now 86, said as he retold one of the more memorable tales from the group’s three-week journey across Europe.

“They had a person who spoke English who wondered what in the world we were doing there,” he said.

The next morning, all three underwent a 90-minute interrogation. After getting everything cleared up, they were allowed to tour the Parthenon — as long as they had a police escort.

“[He] turned out to be a nice little interpreter,” Redekop laughed. “By the time we left, we were sort of great friends.”

For family and friends, the story demonstrates the spirit of adventure that Peachey, who died at age 93 on Saturday at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, carried throughout his life.

“We would go on family vacations and we would take a tent and everywhere we went, we would find a campground,” said one of his sons, George Peachey, of Silver Spring, Md. “We went to Mexico that way and we went to Canada that way. We had a great time.”

Paul Peachey, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2001, was a former sociology professor at Catholic University. He was known for his love of having deep, often philosophical conversations, a devotion to his family and wife, his emergency relief work following World War II and as an advocate for peace.

“He led by example, very effectively,” his son, James Peachey, of Silver Spring, Md. said. “Peace was central to his way of life. He did not just quote [peace] as something you should do, he really put it into practice.”

Paul Peachey traveled widely due to his peacebuilding and service efforts with Mennonite Central Committee and Church Peace Mission. Travel was something he was not familiar with as a child growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The second of 10 children, Peachey was born in a log cabin and was 5 years old when his family moved to a 135-acre Amish-Mennonite farm a mile north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Peachey was on the path to being a lifelong farmer.

But from a young age, an interest in learning, spurred along by his father, was evident. His brother, Laban Peachey, 85, recalls Paul Peachey reading everything he could get his hands on, from Pennsylvania Farmer magazine to a 600-page history of Rome.

“His father always had an interest in books and learning,” said Paul’s daughter, Janet Peachey, of Washington, D.C. “Although they were farmers, that was somehow in the background.”

Peachey received a degree from Eastern Mennonite School, now Eastern Mennonite University, where he met his match in Ellen Shenk, whom he married in 1945.

The two traveled and lived in various countries together — Belgium, Germany, Japan — performing postwar service work. Peachey also earned a doctorate in sociology from the University of Zurich while living in Switzerland.

“He was extremely devoted to my mom,” said George Peachey.

In 2001, after helping form and living in a religious retreat center in West Virginia, the couple moved to VMRC, where they spent the remainder of their years. Ellen Peachey preceded her husband in death by three months.

“For awhile, [my dad] and my mom would take walks in the woods next to VMRC, which is one of the places they had gone in courtship,” said James Peachey. “There was this stone chimney there that I think his class had built as a gift to the university. That chimney is still there. [I thought it was] a very charming bookend. … They had started [a life] together [there] and then they ended in the same place again.”

Discussion on “EMU Grad Remembered For Adventurous Spirit

  1. We’re sorry to hear of the passing of Ellen & Paul. We enjoyed knowing them at Hyattsville Mennonite Church in the 60’s & 70’s. Maurice & Carolyn Brubaker

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