Bryan, TEX. (KBTX) - A couple of weeks back, KBTX lost one of its original family members. In fact, there aren’t many, if any, still around. Peggy Gillam passed away, wife of original KBTX General Manager Harry Gillam. She and Harry moved to Bryan-College Station in 1957 to oversee the final building phase and first day on-air for KBTX, a position Harry would hold for 30-years until his passing in 1987.
Peggy was the original biggest fan of this television station, always staying involved at some level right up to her passing.
When I first visited her in the Dallas area, she was not happy about leaving her home in Bryan but knew it was time to be closer to her daughter Patty’s family. All the complaining on the phone about the new place had me concerned until I walked in to her new place – it was a house within a huge complex! Hardly – a true assisted living center you may you may have envisioned based on Peggy’s first description.
Inside her apartment were a lot of memories of home, but on the coffee table was perhaps the oddest, quirkiest, yet – most meaningful item I’ve ever seen. Preserved with a gold substance was one of – wait for it – Harry’s shoes. Harry was a big man, and up close it looked like something Lebron would wear. A small child could take up residence in that shoe. Then – the stories would start – about Harry, about KBTX, always asking about former KBTX GM Jim Baronet, KBTX’s long-time employee Todd Carroll, other questions about former employees, and stories told as only Peggy could – no filter, all walls down, most of the time ending in laughter.
Peggy was happiest when she was with people, and in spite of health issues down the home stretch, she could still talk, tell a tale, laugh at herself and at others with the oxygen apparatus still attached. Her involvement in this community is a model for all to remember and emulate. Now, I like to think I’m pretty cooperative, KBTX is pretty cooperative when it comes to support of community events. But to speed up
the process to get our commitment to support an endeavor, organizations like Scotty’s House got pretty smart. They’d send Peggy, or Peggy and someone like – Ann Wiatt – and we’d go to the conference room where the conversation would simple start from Peggy: “Mike, we need your help and the help of KBTX.” From then on, it was OK – yes – whatever you need.
Peggy had a servant’s heart, and believed in this community, and all we could accomplish by working together.
She attended ribbon cuttings for the opening of our CW-Network, the unveiling of the new set, the 50th anniversary, and sent recorded greetings for the 60th. Peggy understood the concept of – family…her personal family, and this extended family at KBTX. No matter what we experienced, the top of the mountain or the bottom of the valley, family stuck together – and Peggy was the original mom for KBTX. She knew we were better together, working through any challenges. No one was better to talk to when the going was rough, and no one was more fun to laugh with when times were good. Funny how that simple concept is one we need today – every day.
When people like Peggy leave us, I usually quote the George Jones song. Somehow this time – it’s got a little more meaning – knowing about the big shoe she had on that coffee table. Who’s gonna fill those shoes? I don’t know. What I DO know, is that Peggy, Harry, Gil, Van and Patty have left a lasting mark on the family of KBTX. The best way to honor Harry and Peggy is to continue building what they started, and to continue serving this community at a higher level every year. So far, not a bad run. 60-years, and counting. Peggy always said to remind the kids – life goes by really fast. Make the most of it. A great reminder, from a great friend.