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Peg Wills honored for advocating peace

Beaverton great-grandmother counters war and aggression with activism and cookies.


PEG WILLSYou might call Peg Wills a warrior.

Except that might not sound quite right given that much of her decades-long fight has been for peace.

The grandmotherly peace activist turns 81 in January.

That same month she will be honored with the Inter-Religious Action Network of Washington County’s 2016 Emily Georges Gottfried Everyday Hero Award because she “unceasingly advocates for environmental and social justice issues.”

The award will be given during an annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Southminster Presbyterian Church on Jan. 17.

Wills is a founding member of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church’s Social Justice Committee, helped launch the weekly Stand for Peace vigils at Beaverton’s City Park and hosts many social justice meetings at her home just outside Beaverton.

“From environmental concerns to gun control, you will find Peg involved and getting others involved,” Eileen Sleva wrote in an email about Wills. Sleva is a past recipient of the Everyday Hero Award and serves with Wills on Holy Trinity’s Social Justice Committee.

Sleva added: “Peg’s tireless work and optimistic attitude and her witness to change by incorporating change into her own life, have been a beacon of light and an inspiration to many people, inspiring many to join her in the quest for Peace in our broken world.”

“She does lots of relatively simple things, but she just keeps doing them,” said Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss, who is chairwoman of the IAN committee planning the MLK celebration.

The award is given in memory of Emily Gottfried (1955-2013), who was a persistent advocate for human rights, interfaith dialogue and feeding the hungry.

For her own part, Wills is a little embarrassed by the recognition.

“There’s a lot of people who do more than I do,” she told a reporter in December.

But she opened up and talked about the many causes she advocates by hosting meetings, attending peace rallies, contacting legislators, studying nonviolence and other topics and serving as an example for others, such as by being one of the earlier residents to install solar panels and rain barrels at home. As a host, she’s legendary in her circles for her cooking – especially her cookies.

“I think people get together better over food,” she said.

“I’ve had a real awakening for the need for nonviolence,” said Wills, whose brother died in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Wills said she was raised in the Episcopalian Church but joined her husband’s Catholic faith after they met at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. Her husband died a quarter century ago while they were living in Idaho, and she returned to the Beaverton area where they had previously lived. Her five children live in the area, and she also has nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

MLK Day Celebration

The Emily Georges Gottfried Everyday Hero Award will be presented at annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17 at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 12250 S.W. Denney Road, Beaverton.

The event is presented by the Inter-Religious Action Network of Washington County with the Human Rights Council of Washington County and the Beaverton Human Rights Advisory Commission.

At the event, Dr. Michael Sonnleitner will deliver a keynote talk on the theme, “What Does Martin Luther King mean to me.” He will concentrate on the latter part of King’s life as King addressed racism, poverty and militarism.

The Beaverton Intergenerational Women's Choir will perform. Displays and awards will be given to children and youth winners of the Human Rights Poster Contest and the Creative Expression Contest.

The Martin Luther King Day celebration is free and open to the public. Attendees are invited to bring new socks or gloves or donate funds to Project Homeless Connect.

For more information, see ianofwashingtoncounty.org/.

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