Peg Libertus, Local Activist and Playwright: 1944-2011

The following is an excerpt from Peg Libertus’ obituary published in the Gainesville Sun.

“Peg” Margaret Joan Libertus, 67, died September 26, 2011 from complications of ovarian cancer… In Gainesville, Peg taught drama at Santa Fe College’s Continuing Education Program. She was awarded a State of Florida Individual Artist’s Grant for her fiction writing. She encouraged many others in their creativity, especially local writers. Her greatest theatrical accomplishment was the completion of the musical “The Boxer of Basin Street” presented at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre in Gainesville.

Peg had a strong commitment to community service and political activism ranging from the street protests at the National Democratic convention in 1968 to the soup kitchen of St. Francis House here in Gainesville. Over the years, she served as board member or advisory committee member for various agencies: North Central Florida Health Planning Council, State of Florida Prevention of Disabilities Advisory Council, Alachua County/City of Gainesville Cultural Affairs Board, and the Center for Independent Living. Peg also contributed her writing and graphic skills to the St. Francis House newsletter and to the United Way of Alachua County. Peg was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party and a Party volunteer during many national and local elections. She advocated for the rights of the handicapped.

The following are memories submitted by local friends of Peg Libertus.

Joe Courter: “My best memory of Peg came from her observation following her amazing summer and fall of registering voters prior to the 1992 election, when week after week she’d park herself in front of Publix or Walmart and proceeded to register over a thousand voters. She said that simply by interacting with the people prior to and as they registered she could predict whether they’d pick Democrat or Republican. Her conclusion? Said with good-natured generalization, ‘Democrats are crazy, Republicans are nasty.’ Be it well intended altruism vs. rugged individualism, international cooperation vs. American exceptionalism, Barney Frank vs. Newt Gingrich, it somehow holds for me.”

Fred Pratt: “I remember Peg and I talking many times about the “bad old days.” When we talked about the bad old days, we were talking about life for people with disabilities before the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. We always took the time to tell young people with disabilities what it was like for us before the passage of the ADA. When we talked about this, they were always amazed that there was a time when people with disabilities were not able to get into department and grocery stores because of barriers, that there was a time when people with disabilities did not work and were kept at home or in institutions…

“I also remember the work that Peg did in the LGBT civil rights movement in Gainesville and Alachua County. I particularly remember when we were trying to get the county to add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination ordinance. Peg and I had been in the Disabled Rights movement for years, and we worked to pass some of this knowledge on to the LGBT community. One memory I have in particular is the time we were going to hold a demonstration in front of the County Administration Building. I opened up my apartment to hold a strategy and sign-making session. After we were done, Peg and I talked to the group on how to resist any police action in a nonviolent, peaceful manner. These were tactics that we learned in the Disabled Rights movement that we wanted to pass on.”

Comments are closed.