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Peggy's Story

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Peggy Lorane Flanagan Baird, age 74, passed away on Jan. 13, 2017 at her home in Huntsville. She suffered from the effects of dementia. Peggy was born on Friday, Nov. 13, 1942 in Athens, AL to the late Eva Cleo Estep Flanagan and Zenas Ozro Flanagan. A sister was born a year later but was a "blue baby" who passed away in infancy. Peggy was a precocious learner and at age 5 entered the first grade at Pleasant Grove Elementary School in Limestone County. She took piano lessons and developed a love for the instrument, which sustained her for the rest of life. Peggy attended Athens High School, graduating in 1959 as the class valedictorian. She entered David Lipscomb College in the fall of 1959 and transferred the next year to Western Kentucky University (WKU) where she majored in music and played flute in the Hilltopper Marching Band. Graduating with a B. Mus. degree in 1963, she then enrolled as a non-degree student at Vanderbilt University in order to explore liberal arts courses which she had missed at WKU.
In 1964, she was hired by the Oak Ridge (TN) school system to teach music in the elementary schools. She taught woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion and formed a student orchestra which performed for parents. During the summer of 1965, she took education courses at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City. Later that year, she met her future husband, James K. (Jim) Baird, who was at the time a graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. dissertation research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). They were married on June 17, 1967 in the United Church Chapel on the Hill, the original WWII Oak Ridge house of worship which has been the site of weddings of hundreds of Oak Ridge scientists and engineers. Having been commissioned as an undergraduate through Army ROTC, Jim was called to active duty at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, in the fall of 1968. The next year, the newlyweds moved to their final duty station at Sandia Base, Albuquerque, NM. While in Albuquerque, Peggy enrolled in the University of New Mexico, earning a M. Mus. Ed. degree in 1970. Her thesis entitled, "Music Books for the Elementary School Library," was published by the Music Educators National Conference in 1972. On weekends, the couple enjoyed exploring the ghost towns of New Mexico, of which there were many. Upon discharge from the Army in 1970, they returned to Oak Ridge, where Jim joined the ORNL Health Physics Division. Their son, David, was born on Oct. 20, 1972. In 1981, Jim joined the GE Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, and the family moved to Schenectady, NY. Peggy and her family made their last move the next year, when her husband became a faculty member in the Chemistry Department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Through all these dislocations, Peggy taught private lessons in piano and flute in her home. She shared her knowledge and experience in teaching by giving seminars and workshops. In 2011 she was the keynote speaker for the meeting of the Connecticut Piano Teachers Association. Her career as a private teacher spanned nearly 50 years, ending only with her retirement at the end of 2013. Her devotion to teaching is summarized in a poem written by Emily Brown, then 11 years old, who was her student in 2010. The poem reads: "2:45 p.m.; Time to begin; Play it fast; Play it slow; Legato; Staccato; Ritardando; Sip of tea; Back to me; Metronome; Time for home; Piano lesson over." Peggy was known for the rigor of her instruction as well as her interest in the general education of her students.
In addition to being a teacher, Peggy was a private scholar of the history of music instruments, especially as they appear as props in European portrait art. She lectured on this subject at many locations, including the Collection of Music Instruments at Yale University. She contributed articles to journals and encyclopedias including Clavier, Art and Antiques, The Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments (The Piano), and the Encyclopedia of East Tennessee. In her home, she assembled a collection of flutes illustrating the development of the instrument over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. She was member of many professional societies on both sides of the Atlantic, but her favorite was the American Music Instrument Society (AMIS) for which she served as journal manager for a number of years and as chair of the 1993 AMIS national meeting that was held in Nashville, TN. Her favorite location for the study of the history of music instruments was the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota.
She was a faithful member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Huntsville. Although known as a gifted teacher and scholar, Peggy was above all a loyal daughter, a wonderful mother and a devoted wife. She is survived by her husband, Jim; son, David; daughter-in-law, Jenny; and grandchildren, Ruby (17) and Henry (13), as well as many cousins in Athens, AL and elsewhere in the US.
A visitation is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at Spry Funeral Home, 2411 Memorial Parkway, N.W., Huntsville. A memorial service, which will be a musical celebration of her life, will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 22, 2017 at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 301 Drake Avenue, SE, in Huntsville. Interment will be in the Flanagan family plot at Roselawn Cemetery, Rt. 31, Athens, AL. In lieu of flowers, well wishers are urged to donate to the Peggy F. Baird Scholarship Fund of the American Musical Instrument Society. Contributions can be made out to AMIS and addressed to Ms. Joanne Kopp, Treasurer, American Musical Instrument Society, Attn: Peggy F. Baird Fund, 1106 Garden Street, Hoboken, NJ, 07030.
Published on January 17, 2017
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